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#cftrecommendations for your #education reading list

June 15, 2014

Reading an @ASCD published book, Engaging Teachers in Classroom Walkthroughs, by Donald S. Kachur, Judith Stout, and Claudia Edwards.  As I prepare to work with local Atlanta educational leaders on developing a classroom walkthrough process in their schools, I’m using this piece to build the case.  This book lays out a compelling, research-based rationale for supporting a rich professional development culture in schools through teacher-led classroom walkthroughs.   These are some questions on the minds of educators as they explore whether to invest in a classroom walkthrough process (page 12-13).

  • What will we do to eliminate potential teacher fear that the purpose of walkthroughs is evaluative?
  • Will the walkthroughs be motivating or demotivating to teachers?
  • How will we provide time for teachers to conduct walkthroughs and follow-up discussions?
  • How will we achieve maximum participation?
  • How will we develop a walkthrough documentation form for which all have buy-in?
  • What meaningful data should be collected from the walkthroughs?
  • Should walkthroughs be announced or unannounced?
  • How will we measure the effective of our walkthroughs?

It is clear from their research that walkthroughs are successful at “opening doors for teachers throughout a school to observe, reflect on, and collaboratively discuss instructional practices and their effect on student learning.” (page 13)

Another “must read” article appeared in today’s New York Times on the Common Core (@achievethecore).  The article, Common Core in 9 Year Old’s Eyes, chronicles the opportunities and challenges of learning in school under the Common Core (#commoncore) umbrella.  This is a rich, colorful, and fascinating look at the Common Core through the experiences of a set of Brooklyn triplets in 4th grade at PS 397 and their teacher, Ms. Matthews.  The article is not a research-based piece that delves into the structure of the Common Core or the challenges educators face integrated the new standards into existing curricula.   It looks at the learning experiences of Chrispin, one of the triplets, as he struggles trying to make school work.  It is less about the Common Core and more about…

  • the value of being a proficient reader in the life of a child.
  • the value of having siblings who work together at home, supporting each other through the challenges of learning new content and skills.
  • the value of having a mother who cares about her children’s successes and failures.
  • the value of a teacher who is persistent in the face of adversity.
  • the value of a teacher who projects a positive attitude about the Common Core
  • the value of a teacher who cares about her students’ struggles with failure, helping them see failure as part of the journey towards success.

In these ways, I found the article to be a compelling ethnography of one families experience with school.  In particular, I loved the way Chrispin’s sister, Haelleca, is portrayed as a helper and cheerleader.  For me, Ms. Matthews and Haelleca are heroes in the story.

It is clear that we shouldn’t demonize the Common Core, which is merely a set of standards to learn and teach by.  We need national standards as a benchmark to measure the progress of our schools and provide guidance from state-to-state so we can be sure all students are learning at the highest level.  If we don’t have national standards then we will be left with some states, like Georgia and Tennessee (Few States Set World Class Standards), that lower the benchmarks for “passing” to such a extent that it becomes unclear whether students master critical knowledge and skills.

If we intend to successfully implement the Common Core, we must invest in professional development for educators, give them ample time to integrate standards with existing curriculum, and model what good instruction using the standards look like.

When Change Has Legs, by David Perkins and James Reese, in the May 2014 edition of Educational Leadership, unveils the four “key factors help determine whether change efforts will be sustained.”  The four factors are:

Frameworks

Leaders

Community

Institutionalization

The authors point out that change or innovation does not happen as a result of applying a formula, but can happen if a community engages in conversations built around the four key factors.  Their model reminds me of Michael Fullan’s work in Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform.  His four drivers for system reform or change are: (1) build capacity; (2) promote and celebrate collaboration; (3) invest in pedagogy or instructional improvement; and (4) design integrated solutions.

Let me know if you find these readings interesting and relevant to your work in schools.

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