KY Teachers Part of Award-Winning ESSA Strategy Team

Kentucky teachers and Hope Street Group Teacher Fellows Cassie Reding and Carly Baldwin are part of a team being recognized for development of an ESSA Strategy Plan.

Here’s more from a press release from Hope Street:

This week, a cross-state coalition of Hope Street Group Teacher Fellows will join 11 other teams in Chicago as finalists of the Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future’s Agents for Learning Challenge. The challenge, which called upon educator teams across the country to create plans that detailed innovative uses for federal funding for professional learning and student outcomes under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), named the Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellow team of Trey Ferguson (NC), Cassie Reding (KY), Carly Baldwin (KY), Natalie Coleman (TN) and Debbie Hickerson (TN) as finalists. The “Game Changers” team from Hope Street Group is the only team with representatives from three different states to receive this honor. Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellows will also be strongly represented: current Fellow Sarah Giddings and former Fellows Debbie Hickerson and Rebecca Wattleworth will also be in attendance to present their innovative proposals with their respective teams. Trey describes their team’s initial incentive to throw their hat in the competition ring:

“My teammates and I felt too many professional learning opportunities were happening to us, not for us, and definitely not with us. Too many systems are being developed from the top down and do not provide adequate resources or accountability to enhance good teaching practices.”

The finalist teams represent a diverse and knowledgeable group, among them 56 teachers, administrators and learning leaders from 12 different states. When asked about their strategic approach, team member Natalie Coleman tapped into the need for collaboration among educators:

“Our proposal focuses on collaboration and learning from excellence, and we have proposed a model of professional learning that makes it possible for teachers to learn from one another through observations, peer feedback and ongoing follow-up sessions.”

Hope Street Group, a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity, was given the unique opportunity to plan and sponsor the event:

“We were honored to be asked to co-sponsor this event and help plan it,” commented Dr. Tabitha Grossman, the National Director, Education Policy and Partnerships for Hope Street Group. “Giving teachers an opportunity to share their insights and innovative ideas about how educators can learn together and individually is something we hope to do more of in the coming months with the partners who are involved in this event.”

Dr. Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, weighed in on the call for teachers to lend their leadership–their expertise, experiences, and input–in the distribution of ESSA funding:

“States tell us they are looking for ways to capture stakeholder input, and the creative and bold ideas in the applications show how much these engaged educators have to offer as we enter the implementation phase of ESSA.”

In addition to the proposal presentations, the Chicago event will feature opportunities for the team members to engage to receive coaching to refine their plans and build skills in advocating with policymakers. As evidenced by the insight offered in the proposals, the challenge further demonstrates the need for teacher voice in education policy on the school, district, state and national levels. Educators can provide a firsthand perspective into what is effective and needed by students, themselves and their colleagues. A unique perspective only they can offer.

The presentations from the top 12 finalists will be live-streamed from 1:00pm to 3:30pm (CST) on July 22nd and can be viewed from this URL:http://www.learningforward.org/agentslivestream. If you are not available to watch on July 22, the recorded presentations as well as the teachers’ plans will be available online.

To learn more about Hope Street Group’s Teacher Fellows Program, please visit http://hopestreetgroup.org/impact/education/teacher-fellowships/. For additional information or questions, or to request interviews, please send an email to outreach@hopestreetgroup.org.

About Hope Street Group

Hope Street Group is a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

Kentucky Teachers Lead, Grow Through Hope Street Program

From a Hope Street Group press release:

“If teachers became more engaged in self-advocacy and policy development, their classrooms would reflect those changes.”

These words were spoken by Angela Gunter, a Daviess County English language teacher. This year, Gunter is leading 55 teachers across southern and western Kentucky’s Green River Regional Educational Cooperative region in implementing Student Growth Goal action research in English Language Arts classrooms. She also counts this school year as her first as a Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellow.

Through the Kentucky State Teacher Fellows Program, Hope Street Group, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, is working in close partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Kentucky Teachers Association (KEA), the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky to provide a group of public school teachers, who are chosen through a rigorous selection process, with skills around peer and community engagement, data collection, and communication strategies, while giving them opportunities to amplify positive teacher voice to inform policy decisions. Hope Street Group launched the program with great success in Kentucky in 2013, replicating it in Hawai’i in 2014 and then in North Carolina and Tennessee in 2015.

Last year, in a statewide data collection in collaboration with the KDE and KEA, Kentucky State Teacher Fellows (STFs) sought teacher solutions from their peers regarding optimizing teacher time, using teacher leaders to impact professional and student learning, as well as utilizing the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, the state’s educator evaluation system. The Kentucky STFs led focus groups and gathered survey data with their peers across the state and, ultimately, engaged over 20% of all Kentucky teachers. Their findings were turned into actionable recommendations to further support educators in the state. KDE has taken these recommendations and begun acting upon the solutions.

“KEA is glad to partner with Hope Street Group to make sure that policymakers take seriously what the real education experts–Kentucky’s classroom teachers–know about what works to improve student learning,” KEA Executive Director Mary Ann Blankenship said.

The work of the first cohort of the Kentucky STFs has led to their growth as teacher leaders and advocates for their profession. In addition to providing recommendations to KDE, they have met with legislators and hosted school visits, and have written op-eds and essays that have been published in news outlets across the state and nation. The way in which the STFs have contributed to the state’s education policy decisions reaffirmed the decision by Carrie Wedding, a 5th and 6th grade special education teacher, to remain in the program.

“During my time as a Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellow, I feel that I have built bridges among teachers to positively impact student learning,” Wedding reflected. “When teachers open their doors and hearts in order to have open dialogue about students, cultures and minds shift.”

Wedding, who is among 24 other teachers in Hope Street Group’s Kentucky STF program this year, is collaborating with Gunter to create a series of teacher articles for the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer around critical education topics that impact the local community.

“The 2015 Hope Street Group Kentucky STFs are about the business of leveraging the expertise and cumulative voice of teachers to shape policy at the local, state, and national level,” Brad Clark, Kentucky State Teacher Fellows Program Director stated. “By working with our local and state partners, STFs accelerate the opportunities for Kentucky teachers to develop the dispositions, knowledge, and skills necessary to deeply impact teaching and learning.”

Kentucky educators can participate in the work of this year’s 25 STFs and contribute their voice to meaningful policy action by finding the 2015 Kentucky State Teacher Fellow in their region here.

Hope Street Group is a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity. For more information, visit: www.hopestreetgroup.org

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Professional Development: Accepted and Expected

This article was submitted by Hope Street Group Fellows Kip Hottman and Angela Baker. Baker teaches English/Language Arts and Journalism in Berea Community Schools. Read her full bio. Hottman is a Spanish teacher at Oldham County High School. Read his full bio.

Kentucky Education Report continues to seek submissions from teachers who wish to comment on education policy in Kentucky.

This year Kentucky joined many states throughout the U.S. in implementing a more comprehensive teacher evaluation program. Kentucky teachers have been piloting the new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES) for the last two years, but this year full implementation is occurring, with full accountability being postponed until the 2015-2016 school year.

Across the nation many teachers are taking part in initiatives that integrate and embed professional learning within the teacher evaluation. While professional development has been part of teachers’ ongoing training throughout schools for years, school administrators and local decision making councils are currently looking at how to improve individual teacher’s skills. PGES will allow individual teachers to tailor their professional learning to their needs rather than enduring school-wide professional development that most likely does not match their individual areas of improvement. At the heart of the decision making about a teacher’s effectiveness is data; data about his or her students (such as summative test scores and daily, formative academic gains), classroom observations and teacher reflection. With information from multiple measures, teachers, through collaboration with the administrator, are able to create student-centered goals and increasingly intentional plans to improve their effectiveness.

In October of 2013 Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, visited Williamsburg, Kentucky to encourage and acknowledge the state’s efforts within Early Childhood Development. At the town hall convening, Secretary Duncan was asked to provide a specific example of a teacher evaluation system in the United States that is successful. He immediately responded with Montgomery County, Maryland, and their use of a program called Peer Assistance and Review (PAR – http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~ngt/par/)

The purpose of the PAR program is to assist all teachers to meet standards for proficient teaching. It is a program that has been instituted to truly help teachers be as successful as possible, continue to learn and continue to grow as an educator. The system was instituted in the early 2000’s and uses multiple measures to determine a teacher’s professional development (PD) needs. The multiple measures are as follows:

  • Formal and informal observations by school administration or a consulting teacher
  • Student achievement data
  • Non-evaluative observations by a staff development teacher, reading specialist, math specialist or math content coach
  • Student learning objective data
  • Peer walk-throughs
  • Formative assessment data and marking period data

When Assistant Principal Greg Mullenholz of Maryvale Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland was asked about strengths and weaknesses of the PAR program, he said, “The evaluation has an outcome that is rooted in Professional Development. Meaning, the observation of the teacher is used to analyze the effectiveness of their practice. A problem that could arise if the observation isn’t solid because the goal will be misaligned to the actual need of the teacher. The support structure also has to be in place so the Professional Development will be available once a goal is defined.”

In the past, growth was viewed as a common thread amongst departments in schools, and most teachers focused on the same goal as their peers. The PAR program is groundbreaking because it is teacher-centered as they have the opportunity to create their own professional growth goal. The teacher is held accountable for his or her goal and provides evidence of change in student achievement through their adopted changes in practice.

Mr. Mullenholz also discussed his personal opinion of PAR and its effect on growing teachers professionally through collaboration: “Since its implementation over a decade ago, PAR has been a strong model. I love that it was collaboratively developed and that the school system and the union are both architects. The “peer” part is critical as the evaluation or observation must have an expectation for improvement in the teacher’s practice, or there is no set-up for success.”

While Montgomery County School district implemented an evaluation system with an eye toward teacher development, others took this one step further and created incentives for improved performance. One example of this is the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in San Fernando, California.

The Vaughn Next Century Learning Center has a history of offering high quality professional development integrated with teacher evaluation for performance pay over an interval of several years. They also use the PAR program and, like other teacher evaluation systems, professional development needs are determined by a combination of test scores and areas of need identified through observations by both lead teachers and administrators. As an independent charter school, the curriculum committee looks at the needs of the entire school and plans professional development based on numerous local factors.

Nicole Mohr, teacher and Curriculum committee Chair to the Board of Directors at the Vaughn Center stated, “It is an ever growing, ever changing process. Teachers who are on the performance assistance and review team meet regularly, several times a year and each summer to discuss how the program is meeting the needs of the school.” Most schools meet regularly to desegregate data from state tests, other assessments and even non-cognitive data to make plans to improve the school.

Teachers receive pay incentives based on numerous areas: their skills/knowledge base (Designing Coherent Instruction, Managing Classroom Procedures, Managing Student Behavior, Engaging Students in Learning, Reflecting on Teaching, and Showing Professionalism) evaluated during observations, contingency base (student attendance), outcomes base (graduation rate and Average Percentage Increased), expertise base (department chair, coach, mentor, tutor, etc) and measurable student growth.

Ms. Mohr cautioned that the downside of incentives or merit pay is “[teachers] may look for ways to prove [they] are meeting the requirements rather than looking for ways to improve [instructional practices]”. Authentically excellent teachers usually do have the evidence to prove they are meeting expectations, which shows the overall importance and benefit of accountability.” While accountability may mean merit pay for some, for most schools evaluation is used to make decisions about retention.

Mella Baxter, English and reading teacher in Flagler County Schools in Florida is at a school that does not use PAR but is integrating professional development with teacher evaluation. Ms. Baxter stated, “[Professional Development] is not differentiated by individual teacher needs, but rather each Professional Learning Community (PLC) meeting focuses on how to get highly effective in one of the indicators on the evaluation tool. Then the rest of the PLC teachers work together to create lessons, assessment, etc. based on student data designed to get students to the level they need to be for teachers to get a highly effective rating.”

Aligning the professional development to the evaluation tool that is then linked to best practices seems to be a simple and effective idea. Ms. Baxter, who is also a Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow, is designing a space on the Virtual Engagement Platform for Hope Street Group that will list indicators for Florida’s teacher evaluation tool and link each one to resources that will help teachers achieve a highly effective rating in that category. Her plan is to allow teachers to “further individually tailor their PD.” Once completed it will allow features such as uploading videos of teachers as exemplars or to attain feedback.

Teachers are more than capable of designing evaluative tools that encompass the complexity of the teaching profession. The most effective teachers are life-long learners. Professional development ought not to be a matter of compliance; it ought to be a tool for satisfying a teacher’s quest for daily improvement of practice. Being treated like a professional is a first step toward redesigning a career ladder that will keep the best teachers in the classroom and proud to be there helping American students.

More on Career Pathways for Teachers

More on Peer Assistance and Review (PAR)

For more on education policy and politics in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

Career Pathways for Kentucky Teachers

Brian Bishop of Hope Street Group offers his thoughts on moving beyond the one-lane dirt road that currently makes up the career pathway for teachers.

Bishop notes:

As my time with teachers has evolved, I have learned one very disturbing fact about the current design of our education system: Teachers are limited in how they can further their career. When a teacher starts to teach, professional advancement is really limited. A teacher can attain their master’s degree and get a small pay bump, or a teacher can become a National Board Certified Teacher and get another small incremental pay raise. Short of these methods, there is no other real systemic opportunity that allows the teacher to do what they love to do and advance their career while remaining in the classroom a the same time.

Bishop outlines the problem, notes there are solutions, and says it is now time to move beyond talking and start acting on improving career pathways for teachers.

Read it all here.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Hope Street Group Touts First Year Success

The Hope Street Group, a national non-partisan, non-profit organization that sponsored its first year of Kentucky Teacher Fellows in 2013-14, has released the results of a survey indicating the first year of the program was a success.

From the press release:

An independent evaluation conducted by Policy Studies Associates, Inc. determined that the first year of the Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellows Program provided teachers with “a diverse, unique and transferable set of tools, training and resources” and that Kentucky education leaders “valued the data reported to them and acknowledged the important role Hope Street Group played and can play to support teachers’ participation in the policy process.”

With milestones including engaging over 20 percent of Kentucky’s K‑12 teachers and informing the implementation of the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES) and the Kentucky Core Academic Standards, education experts and program participants interviewed deemed the program “an overwhelming success.”

“What happened in Kentucky over the past year was impressive. The fellows we selected clearly understood their charge, embraced the task in front of them and ultimately gave our partners a real-time glimpse into classrooms to see what the reforms they have worked so hard to implement look like in practice,” said Dan Cruce, Hope Street Group’s Vice President of Education.

Now in its second year, the program continues with 21 outstanding Kentucky teachers. The fellowship empowers its participants to collect feedback and solutions from thousands of teachers to inform decision-making at state and district levels. Partners for this work include the Kentucky Department of Education, the Kentucky Education Association and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

“KEA applauds Hope Street Group’s self-examination and desire to become even better at helping promote teacher participation in the issues facing public schools today,” said Mary Ann Blankenship, Executive Director of the Kentucky Education Association.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said teacher fellow Sarah Yost, an English Language Arts Lead Teacher for Jefferson County Public Schools. “After my work with Hope Street Group, I feel more empowered and better respected as an educator. It makes me feel like I can effect real change without leaving the classroom, and my leadership has inspired others to do the same.”

The evaluation also recommended areas for improvement, including expanding and refocusing aspects of fellow training and creating an explicit strategy to leverage online network tools. With the assistance of partners such as 270 Strategies and Purpose, Hope Street Group is actively addressing these aspects of its program and enacted a number of recommended changes last month at its summer teacher fellow convening.

Hope Street Group is currently beginning the second year of its Kentucky State Teacher Fellows Program and launching the first year of its Hawaii State Teacher Fellows Program. Additional work is underway to expand the program to up to four additional states in 2015.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow @KYEdReport

 

Education Advocacy in Kentucky

Oldham County High School Spanish Teacher Kip Hottman offers his take on advocacy in Kentucky.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Last, but not least, I have had the pleasure of witnessing what Kentucky teachers are implementing in their classrooms. I am absolutely amazed at the passion and best practice that happens daily in classrooms all over our state, and I think that the students are blessed to be part of classroom environments in which they participate.

I love teaching and want to continue to advocate for my students, but I have learned that to be an educator I should advocate for all students, not just those that I see daily. My eyes are now open. My world has changed and I have to show some much needed respect to all of these organizations and to the wonderful educators in our state. So, I end this blog by addressing all those who advocate for our students by saying a simple, “Thank you Kentucky! Thank you for all that you do!”

The article breaks down the key education advocacy groups in Kentucky — though it leaves out Kentucky Association of School Administrators and the Kentucky School Boards Association.  Of course, Hottman’s piece is focused primarily on those who advocate on behalf of teachers.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

Is Kentucky Invested in the Future?

Not yet, according to Brad Clark, a Hope Street Group Fellow and teacher in Woodford County.

He writes passionately about the need to properly invest in Kentucky’s future by investing in its students and teachers.

He notes the need for additional resources in schools:

I am not exaggerating when I say that the fourth grade textbook we use to teach Kentucky History in 2014 is the exact same textbook — with a picture of Daniel Boone standing triumphantly on the front cover — that I used when I was in 4th grade in 1991.

And he notes the lack of investment in meaningful professional development for teachers:

 I have even designed and submitted a “Professional Growth Plan” that sits idle in a folder in an office in my building. Yet, I have no way of implementing my strategies for refining my craft. I do not blame my principal for this because he wants every student and teacher in his building to get better at what they do, but he lacks the necessary resources to make that happen.

His central point is that Kentucky is at a crossroads.  While investment in education increased steadily from 1990-2008 following the Kentucky Education Reform Act, that investment has tapered in recent years.  The per pupil funding provided by SEEK has actually declined.

Governor Beshear has proposed a budget that begins to reverse this trend, in some cases at the expense of other areas of state government.

While Kentucky made historic progress that garnered national attention during the years of investment following KERA, those gains are in danger. With new standards for students and new evaluations for teachers, now more than ever, Kentucky must invest in its schools.

Lawmakers would do well to heed the words of Mr. Clark and begin the process of re-investing in Kentucky schools.  They should also view this year’s investment as a starting point and find ways in the future to continue significant investment in Kentucky’s schools and its future.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow @KYEdReport