Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Collaboration in Educator Evaluation

"More than anything, evaluation systems should be recognizing, developing, and promoting the most talented and successful educators. We need an approach to evaluation that is all about celebrating excellence, and ensuring that those who excel also thrive in their workplaces, and stay in education."
         - Member of the Massachusetts Task Force on the Evaluation of Teachers and Administrators

With DESE's Spring Convening around the corner, I felt it appropriate to post about educator evaluation.  Come join us in Marlborough, Massachusetts on May 28th and 29th to learn how many districts across the Commonwealth have approached calibration, district determined measures and student feedback.  At the core of educator evaluation is collaborative learning between teachers and administrators.  We look forward to having you as a partner! 

Linda Darling-Hammond recently published an article in American Educator that highlights the difference between teacher quality and teaching quality.  She has titled this article, One Piece of the Whole: Teacher Evaluation as Part of a Comprehensive System of Teaching and Learning.  I've come to rely on Darling-Hammond to fight the good fight.  Her desire to support continuous teacher improvement aligns with Massachusetts' five educator evaluation regulations:
  • Promote growth and development amongst leaders and teachers
  • Place student learning at the center, using multiple measure of student learning, growth, and achievement
  • Recognize excellence in teaching and leading
  • Set a high bar for professional teaching status
  • Shorten timelines for improvement
Did you know that DESE creates a monthly Education Evaluation Newsletter?  Check out this month’s ‘Implementation Spotlight’ to learn how specific schools in the Greater Boston region are focusing on giving consistent and constructive feedback.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

English Language Learners and the Common Core

Our districts have an increasing number of English language learners (ELLs) and it is critical that we figure out the best way to address their needs.  Many questions arise as we navigate this intricate process.  Can we truly implement a Common Core aligned curriculum when working with ELLs?  How do we best train teachers who work with this population of students?  Is technology going to damage or assist in this process? This week’s blog is dedicated to exploring research and resources for English language learners in the age of Common Core State Standards.

The Institute of Education Sciences has published an educator’s practice guide entitled, Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School.  This guide has been recently updated since it was first published in 2007.  There are new foci on the importance of teaching academic vocabulary and writing in all subject areas.  This guide includes 'exhibits' that offer sample lessons, graphic organizers, prompts and sentence starters to use with English language learners.

Guadalupe Valdés, Amanda K. Kibler and Aída Walqui have written a Professional Paper entitled, Changes in the Expertise of ESL Professionals: Knowledge and Action in an Era of New StandardsThey have built on TESOL's work on why it's important to train ESL professionals and how to go about doing so.  This is an extremely well researched paper that focuses tremendously on the evolving role of the ESL professional.

Finally, we must address the fact that technology can and will play a large role in the education of ELLs.  We have already begun to see how PARCC and Smarter Balance intend to support ELLs.  But what does this look like in practice? In the article, English Learners Get Help with Common Core Test, KQED's Ana Tintocalis explains how California teachers have recently been using computers to help support English language learners.

Friday, April 4, 2014


We know far less about dyscalculia than we do about dyslexia.  About what percentage of our students are affected by this learning disability? Which part of the brain is associated with dyscalculia?   How can we help make numbers stick?  Check out How Can a Smart Kid Be So Bad at Math, published in Learning Magazine, to get all of these answers and more. 
The National Center for Learning Disabilities is also a great resource when it comes to dyscalculia.  The website offers videos, articles, forums, ebooks and much more information regarding math disabilities.

Looking for dyscalculia professional development for your teachers or math specialists?  The following course, offered by the ACCEPT Education Collaborative, will examine the nature of learning difficulties, problems and disabilities in mathematics that include dyscalculia, mathematics anxiety and mathematics problems due to dyslexia and dyspraxia.  The course, Diagnosis and Remediation of Learning Problems in Mathematics K-9, meets in mid-August in Natick and will be taught by Professor Mahesh C. Sharma.