Life in the 21st century is evolving at a rapid and challenging pace, creating a renewed focus on the lack of fit between what education is and what it needs to be. In the United States, the most recent call for education reform is the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which highlight the importance of curriculum alignment and integration, a respect for multiple perspectives, and the provision of a well-rounded education that prepares students for college and career readiness.
We as educators have a unique opportunity to reset the playing field and make the Common Core State Standards work for us. We can implement the standards, align them to a whole child approach to education, and ensure that they both support and enhance each other to prepare students for college, career, and citizenship success. The Common Core standards and a whole child approach are not opposites, and they do not have to be and should not be in opposition. In fact, they're interdependent. So much so, that they require each other to be successful.
Now is the time for us to take control and become empowered in the process. The outcomes will depend on what we decide to do for the Common Core standards within a whole child approach and how we decide to do it. In this episode, host Molly McCloskey and our guests discuss how our schools are working to better and more comprehensively support student learning so that they meet these enhanced expectations. You'll hear from
Arnold Fege, president of Public Advocacy for Kids and, recently, director of public engagement and advocacy for the Public Education Network where he covered education reform, parental involvement, and community engagement issues on the Hill and agencies, specializing in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Fege has more than 40 years of public education and child advocacy experience as a public school teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, and desegregation director. He was the National PTA's director of governmental relations for 17 years and is recognized for his leading work and articles in linking school and community. As a staff person for Senator Robert F. Kennedy, he helped draft provisions in the original ESEA legislation and has been involved in every reauthorization of ESEA since that time.
Craig Mertler, professor and dean of the Ross College of Education at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., and guest author this month on the Whole Child Blog. Mertler has been an educator for more than 25 years, beginning his career as a high school science teacher, then pursuing degrees in education assessment, research, and statistics. His interests lie in teacher-led action research, teacher leadership, classroom assessment, data-driven instructional decision making, and school improvement.
David Griffith, director of public policy at ASCD who leads the development and implementation of ASCD's Legislative Agenda as well as ASCD's efforts to influence education decision making at the local, state, and federal levels. He has 20 years of political experience as a congressional aide and on several political campaigns. Prior to joining ASCD, Griffith was the director of governmental and public affairs for the National Association of State Boards of Education, where he oversaw the organization's advocacy and political activities as well as media relations.
How are you and your professional colleagues critically examining your practice as we enter the era of Common Core implementation?
Twenty-first century skills are quickly becoming taught and assessed in schools across the United States. Whether through explicit instruction or models like project-based learning, educators are realizing that lower-level content comprehension is not enough. The Whole Child Initiative calls for tenets that rely on these skills. Educators create a safe environment through collaboration. Critical thinking creates rigor and challenge. Communication can create engagement with the community. When we pair 21st century skills with content, we can create powerful and meaningful learning. The Common Core State Standards explicitly call for these skills, so through uncovering the 3 Cs in the Common Core standards, we can see how educators must teach and assess them.
In education we debate many issues. Sometimes it feels as though we debate just to debate. Whether it's the way we teach reading, writing, or math or the harmful effects of high-stakes testing, many issues create an ongoing dialogue in education. It should be that way only as long as it doesn't prevent us from ever moving forward. As we debate back and forth, a generation of students are waiting for us to get our acts together.
We have all had moments when we just wanted to be told what to do ... and moments when we wanted to be left to make our own decisions. Sometimes we want the opposite of what is being asked of us. As we continue down the road of more mandates and accountability than we have ever seen, we cannot lose touch, no matter how hard it may be, with our jobs to teach the whole child.
Although we share many of the concerns critics have raised about the Common Core State Standards (and we know that the debates and the boycotts will continue), we do appreciate the concept of Common Core standards.
But from a whole child and all-children emphasis perspective, let's be clear about a couple of crucial matters.
Educators have a unique opportunity to reset the playing field and make the Common Core State Standards work for them. We can implement the standards, align them to a whole child approach to education, and ensure that both support and enhance each other. The Common Core standards and a whole child approach are not opposites, and they do not and should not have to be in opposition.
Join us throughout December and January as we investigate how the standards integrate and align within a whole child approach and how a strong framework can support a well-rounded education that prepares students for college, career, and citizenship success. Overall, we will highlight how now is the time for educators to take control and become empowered in the process. The outcomes will depend on what you decide to do for the Common Core standards within a whole child approach and how you decide to do it.
In the past three years, 36 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have changed their teacher evaluation policies, mainly to qualify for federal Race to the Top funds or No Child Left Behind waivers. States are drafting, implementing, and using new systems that incorporate measures of student achievement, levels of performance, classroom observations, and performance-based tenure decisions. All these elements must come together to produce results relevant to the improvement of teaching and the development of teachers themselves.
Teachers should be evaluated on the atmosphere they create in their classrooms and the degree of trust they have established with their students. Several findings from the Schools of Integrity and other research literature support examining both classroom culture and teacher-student relationships.
Teacher quality is the most important in-school factor that influences student learning and achievement. Research shows that students with high-performing teachers can progress three times as fast as students with low-performing teachers and each student deserves access to highly effective teachers in every subject. In turn, all teachers deserve a fair and accurate assessment of their skills, how they perform in the classroom, and how they can improve. Teacher effectiveness is dependent on accurate and fair evaluations based on multiple measures, including—but not solely based around—their students' performance in the subjects they teach.
Teachers should be evaluated based on their performance in their own subject area using a range of criteria, including observations, peer reviews, parental or student input, and analysis of agreed-on student learning evidence. In this episode, we discuss effective teacher evaluation that produces results that truly benefit students, schools, and educators. You'll hear from
Teachers know it, parents know it, and even students know it, but there seems to be no consensus across states, districts, and schools about how to measure it and ensure that it is measured fairly. I'm talking about teacher evaluations. Having an effective teacher at the head of the class is the most important in-school factor influencing student learning, and teacher evaluation systems are supposed to assess just how good teachers are in the classroom, with the goal of helping them improve as needed. But many teachers report that they are not evaluated often enough and, in some cases, are not even evaluated in the subjects they teach.