ASSESSMENT ADVISOR
File: infog-Dennis Van Roekel Quote.png

The NEA encourages its members to use Assessment Advisor to rate the assessments they’ve used in their classrooms! 4,000 teachers in 40 states have checked out the site so far. Have you?

Read the NEA Today article.
MUST READS

Survey: Today’s teaching force is less experienced, more open to change
By Jackie Mader
Hechinger Report, October 23, 2012

Teacher-Leader Corps Helps Turn Around Schools
By Stephen Sawchuck
Education Week, April 20, 2011

New Teachers are the New Majority 
By Celine Coggins & Heather Peske
Education Week, January 19, 2011

Lesson Plan in Boston Schools: Don’t Go It Alone
By Mike Winerip
New York Times, August 8, 2010

 

Events Archive


Past Teach Plus Network Events:

In Boston

October 23, 2012: BTU President + Teacher Share

Twenty-five teachers joined BTU President Richard Stutman for a discussion of recent contract negotiations and the new changes to teacher evaluation protocols.

Teachers gave input on what they would like to see in the newly-negotiated PD Institute. Mr. Stutman was interested in the ideas and promised to send an electronic survey to the entire BTU membership to solicit even more teacher input with the goal of making the Institute responsive to teachers’ PD needs.

Additionally, Mr. Stutman explained how teachers can get more involved in the next round of negotiations by submitting ideas or joining the Collective Bargaining Committee (open to all). What are the characteristics of a good idea? According to Mr. Stutman: free or low-cost, good for kids, and something that “makes sense.” “It is a zero-sum game, “ said Mr. Stutman, referencing the give-and-take that is required in the negotiating process.

May 8, 2012: BPS Superintendent + Teacher Share: Elevating the Teaching Profession

Featured speakers: Dr. Carol Johnson, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools; Dr. Cynthia Hays, Chief Academic Officer; Linda Chen, Deputy Chief Academic Officer; Ross Wilson, Asst. Superintendent, Office of Teacher and Leadership Effectiveness; Robert Baroz, BPS Teacher & US ED Teaching Ambassador Fellow

At this event, more than 50 teachers weighed in on district proposals for supporting teachers with quality professional development and creating attractive teacher leadership roles. In addition, teachers learned about a new federal initiative, the RESPECT Project, aimed at re-envisioning the profession. When asked if they would be interested in attending a summer summit for professional development, a majority of the audience (51%) said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to attend, while 1/3 said it was unlikely they would attend but that they could be convinced. Superintendent Johnson dug a little deeper to find out what would entice teachers to attend and learned that assurances about quality, opportunities to collaborate, and incentives such as PD or graduate credits could make the difference. Teachers were also asked to rate the attractiveness of different possible leadership structures. The two most attractive structures were to provide teachers with a stipend or partial release from classroom duties (ex. teaching half time). The least favorable option was full-release from the classroom for a period of time, indicating that teachers are eager for leadership roles but not if they have to leave classroom. Finally, teachers at the event were encouraged to continue the conversation about elevating their profession by attending a local roundtable discussion on the RESPECT Project.

April 5, 2012: Building the Evaluation Toolkit: Weighing in on Measures of Teacher Performance

Featuring: Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester

At this event more than 60 Greater Boston teachers shared their perspectives on the new Massachusetts teacher evaluation tool. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will offer guidance to districts this spring about which measures of teacher performance to include in evaluations (in the 2013-2014 school year) and looked to teachers for advice. Before providing an overview of the new evaluation system (see here for a 2-page summary), the Commissioner began the event by recounting his own experience as a teacher, noting the varied impact of different school leaders on his own professional growth. Next, teachers were asked to rate different measures of teacher performance that are being considered as part of the evaluation process. Teacher-created assessments received the most favorable rating, while student learning growth measured by standardized assessments was ranked the lowest. However, the range between measures was quite small (4.22 to 3.1, respectively on a 5 point scale) showing some indication that teachers believe that there is value to each of the measures. Commissioner Chester stated the importance of creating a system that honors teachers’ professional expertise and builds in some barometers that give reference to what other teachers in the district are expecting and what is happening statewide. Shifting focus slightly, teachers emphasized the importance of having high-quality evaluators to implement this new system, suggesting that administrators be required to calibrate their ratings against a standard in order to become a certified evaluator in the state. Finally, a majority of the teachers in the audience said they would be very supportive (50%) or somewhat supportive (37%) of a Peer Assistance and Review model where peer teachers would be evaluators in addition to administrators.

The event concluded with the launch of a teacher-created website, Assessment Advisor: Reviews powered by teachers which was designed as a tool to let teachers and policymakers see which assessments work and which don’t. About Assessment Advisor, the commissioner said, “to the degree that Assessment Advisor can be a repository of high quality assessments, it will be a tremendous asset for teachers and for the state.”

During a post-event reception teachers had a chance to continue the discussion with Commissioner Chester, several members of his team, and central administrators from the Boston Public schools who stuck around to hear more informally what teachers had to say.

You can learn more about Peer Assistance and Review here or continue to help the state make smart decisions by rating assessment you’ve used in your classroom at www.assessment-advisor.org.

February 7, 2012: Superintendent + Teacher Share: Focus on Supporting Students

Featured speaker: Dr. Carol Johnson, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools

Panelists:Dr. Cynthia Hays, Chief Academic Officer; John Verre, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education & Student Services; Dr. Joan Anderson, Executive Director, Special Education and Student Services; Catherine Chiu, Director of Guidance Services; Ross Wilson, Asst. Superintendent, Office of Teacher and Leadership Effectiveness; Linda Chen, Deputy Chief Academic Officer

Read the full report or continue reading below for a brief recap of the event.

At this event, 100 teachers shared their perspective on ways in which the Boston Public Schools can improve student support services in the district. To begin the event, Dr. Johnson welcomed teachers and panelists by outlining the impacts of previous Superintendent + Teacher Share events (see here and here) and reiterating the value of talking directly with teachers about what they need to do their work effectively. Over half (51%) of teachers in attendance thought that the services in their school are “not enough” to improve student achievement, while 23% said that their schools “somewhat” provide the necessary support. When asked whether their school demonstrates a commitment to inclusive practices, about a quarter (24%) of teachers said yes, 55% said “somewhat,” and 21% said no. 

During small group discussion, teachers elaborated on the best practices of this inclusive model noting that it happens most effectively where there are enough trained professionals on hand to meet the needs of students and when there is adequate time for the professionals serving these students to collaborate. Teachers also highlighted the value of having well-qualified paraprofessionals and requested that the district do more to ensure that these individuals are supported with the professional development experiences necessary to work with specialized populations. Panelists explained that the district is in the early stages of implementing the Academic Achievement Framework (AAF) which is designed to support inclusion-based practices at the school. More than a third of teachers (36%) said they were unfamiliar with AAF, while the next highest percentage – 27% - stated that they were aware of the initiative, however their school is not currently implementing AAF. During an open Q&A portion, teachers had the opportunity to ask panelists questions and also suggest specific ways that the district can better support students.

Read the full report to see BPS’ takeaways and read the teacher-suggested policy ideas that were captured during the evening’s small group discussions.

December 6, 2011: Superintendent + Teacher Share

Featuring: Dr. Carol Johnson, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools

At this event, Dr. Johnson talked with teachers about how Boston Public Schools can support effective teaching. Dr. Johnson began the event with brief introductions for more than 25 central office staff that were in attendance specifically to hear what teachers had to say. The Superintendent also discussed the actions BPS has taken in response to feedback from the April session of the Superintendent + Teacher Share series (check out the April event recap below). After, 73 teachers chose two topics to focus on: school cultures that support effective teaching and defining effective teaching. On the topic of school culture, 25% of teachers said their school has a positive culture while 55% indicated that their school cultures were somewhat positive. Teachers indicated that school leadership is critical to a strong school culture. In response to whether teachers have opportunities to learn from colleagues within their school, 31% said that they frequently do, 39% stated that such opportunities occur on an occasional basis and only 4% said that this never happens. Forty-two percent of teachers named time as the biggest challenge to building a collaborative culture and learning from colleagues. On the topic of defining effective teaching, many teachers claim that their definitions of effective teaching primarily derive from themselves (50%) or colleagues (25%). Additionally, only 21% of teachers said that their schools embraced a common definition of teaching, with another 45% saying that this was somewhat true. 

Dr. Johnson will hear from teachers again during the continuation of the Superintendent + Teacher Share series, February 7th and May 8th.

December 2, 2011: Conflict Resolution: A Conversation with best-selling author Steven Brill

Featuring: Steven Brill, journalist and author of Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools

This event was attended by a wide range of educators, policymakers, and community members. While more than half of the audience were teachers, there were also union representatives, state and district leaders, and other education stakeholders in attendance. In addition, the event was live-streamed on the Teach Plus website. Check out the recorded event here.

Steven Brill opened the night with a short book talk in which he relayed three anecdotes that illustrated major themes in his book: the sustainability of great teaching, the role of unions in reform, and the successes of highly effective charter schools. Following this brief overview, Brill answered interview questions from Teach Plus and audience members. Event conversation centered on how to move reform forward with specific focus on attracting and retaining effective teaching and union collaboration. When asked which reform holds the most promise in keeping effective teachers, sixty-seven percent of teachers in the audience said that effective colleagues and administrators would do the trick. In response, Brill contended that three of the other choices reforming compensation, creating differentiated roles, and ensuring supportive working conditions – would actually be the basis for retaining cohorts of effective peers and administrators. On the topic of unions, forty-four percent of teachers said that they are only minimally involved in their local union while more than half of all teachers said that the union’s vision/direction is a barrier to becoming more involved. A lively discussion and Q&A session followed.

If you missed the event or want to see pieces of it again, watch the full discussion here.

November 2, 2011: American Teacher Screening

This event, run in partnership with the Massachusetts Teachers Association, featured the screening of American Teacher, a documentary that highlights the need for compensation reform in order to attract and retain great teachers. Following the viewing, Paul Toner, president of the MTA, moderated a discussion with about 200 participants about their reactions to the film and ways in which teacher compensation could be re-envisioned. Teachers responded to a few questions using interactive polling technology and elaborated on the results in an open forum. While 8% of teachers polled said that compensation did not factor in at all in their decision to stay in teaching, 65% of the audience said that it significantly or somewhat did. When asked what compensation should be based on, teachers rated successful evaluations and working in academically challenging schools at the top of their list, followed closely by student achievement based in part on standardized test scores. Although teachers still value years of experience in determining compensation it ranked last among the factors listed. When asked to consider an alternative to the traditional step-and-lane pay scale, 87% of teachers said that they would strongly or somewhat support such a reform. Of the teachers in the audience 44% strongly supported the inclusion of teacher performance in determining compensation if evaluations are done by a trusted and highly competent evaluator.

Teachers are encouraged to continue the discussion by hosting their own community screening and weighing in at an online forum where the film’s producer, Ninive Calegari, has posed a question specifically to T+ Network teachers across the country.

October 4, 2011: What Makes a Good Principal? Ask a Teacher!

At this event teachers weighed in on new regulations that require teacher feedback to play a role in administrator evaluations. After learning about new policies, teachers engaged in small group conversations to discuss what they value in a principal. In these working groups, teachers also reviewed the state’s draft of a model principal evaluation rubric to provide specific feedback to DESE and local leaders responsible for the development of the evaluation instruments. When asked whether they thought if the rubric reflected their vision of an effective principal, 77% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that it did. Most teachers (90%) were willing to provide feedback on their principals two or more times over the course of the year, and 54% were open to spending up to 60 minutes giving this feedback. Further, 60% of the audience felt that the mechanism for collecting teacher feedback should be a combination of surveys and more intensive data-collection methods such as interviews or observations. 

Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows used data from the live-polling questions and notes captured in small group discussions to issue a policy memo to state and district officials. Karla Baehr, who is leading the state development of this tool at DESE, and Ross Wilson, BPS Assistant Superintendent in the Office of Teacher and Leadership Effectiveness specifically requested the feedback from this event to help shape their work with principal evaluation. Read the state and BPS policy memos.

August 29, 2011: Innovation Schools:  A Unique Opportunity to Rethink Schools in Massachusetts

Featuring: Paul Reville, MA Secretary of Education; Bridget Rodriguez, Director of Planning and Collaboration at the MA Executive Office of Education; Deb Larson, Teacher at Paul Revere Innovation School in Revere, MA; Daniel St. Louis, Teacher and Assistant Principal at University Park Campus Innovation School in Worcester, MA; and Justin Vernon, Principal at Roger Clapp Innovation School, Boston, MA.

This event, run in partnership with Teach for America Greater Boston and Boston University, featured a chance for teachers to learn about the Innovation Schools initiative, a unique opportunity for groups of education leaders and stakeholders – such as teachers – to develop their own proposal for an innovative school.  Audience members heard from Secretary Reville about the purpose of the initiative: providing teachers with a powerful opportunity to utilize their experience and expertise to design schools that equip students with 21st Century skills.  Teachers were also able to interact with educators who have drafted successful Innovation Schools proposals and have seen their ideas working in their schools.  Panelists gave helpful advice about learning from other successful local schools when drafting their proposals and proactively communicating their ideas to all stakeholders to ensure buy-in. 

Interested in learning more about Innovation Schools?  Read about successful proposals, download the guidance documents or ask questions of Bridget by emailing bridget.rodriguez@state.ma.us.  There is an unprecedented amount of planning and implementation support available right now, making this the ideal time to pursue your creative ideas.

May 10, 2011: Reimagining Teacher Evaluation: Opportunities and Challenges

Featuring: Mitchell Chester, MA Commissioner of Education in addition to panelists from the State Task Force on Educator Evaluation; Karla Baehr, Deputy Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; Pamela Hunter, Principal, Southwick-Tolland Regional High; Linda Noonan, Executive Director, Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education; Paul Toner, President, Massachusetts Teachers Association; Thomas Scott, Executive Director, MA Association of School Superintendents; Shakera Walker, Teacher, Boston Public Schools & Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow

This event, run in partnership with the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, featured a broad audience of education stakeholders, including teachers (who comprised about 1/3 of the audience), parents, students, policymakers, local school & district administrators, union & business leaders, and community stakeholders.  The event began with opening remarks from Commissioner Chester, who gave an overview of his proposed new regulations.  Next, audience members weighed in on a few key questions related to teacher evaluation.  Audience members generally agreed that clear, measureable standards of effectiveness are critical for teaching to be recognized as a true profession and that student learning growth ought to be factored into teachers’ evaluations.  Additionally, audience members responded favorably to the idea that educator self reflection and goal setting should be introduced to a revised evaluation system.  General consensus from audience members was that the current system is not doing even an adequate job at recognizing teachers’ professional accomplishments, supporting their professional growth, or informing tenure and personnel decisions.  Read a press release about the event or visit the Department of Education for a copy of the proposed regulations and to weigh in via an online comment form.

Read a press release about the event.

April 26, 2011: Superintendent + Teachers Share: How can Boston Public Schools best support teachers?

Featuring: Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson

At this event, Dr. Johnson asked for feedback from teachers on how the Boston Public Schools can better support teachers. After hearing about Dr. Johnson’s priorities and ideas, teachers chose two topics to focus on: teacher and principal evaluation and professional development. On the topic of evaluation, Dr. Johnson was particularly interested in hearing from teachers on who they believed could give the most actionable feedback from on an evaluation. While no teachers voted for principal alone, 52% voted for a combination of evaluators and many audience members emphasized the importance of getting feedback from someone who has expertise in their specific subject area or grade. Teachers would like to see peer feedback, measures of student learning growth, and participation in school-wide improvement efforts included in teacher evaluations. On the topic of professional development, it is very important to teachers that PD is actionable in the classroom, aligned with their specific areas of need, and led by a strong instructor. Dr. Johnson heard candid feedback on district-wide PD and many teachers praised teacher-to-teacher PD.

After the event, Dr. Johnson’s wrote a letter to attendees in which she described her takeaways.

UPDATE: As a result of this Superintendent + Teacher Share, BPS heard what teachers had to say and changes:

  • Cross Site Visits pilot initiative: An effort to encourage collaboration and learn from other teachers and schools by sharing best practices.
  • PD Evaluation tool in MLP: this new evaluation tool will allow the district to collect data and help identify and expand successful professional development and improve what’s not working well.
  • Professional Development Advisory Team: consisting of teachers, school leaders, and central office personnel, the team will help direct BPS’ professional development work.

January 20, 2011: Straight Up Solutions: Teachers Advise National Policy Expert Frederick Hess

Featuring:  Frederick M. Hess, Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute

Mr. Hess recently wrote a book called “The Same Thing Over and Over: How school reformers get stuck in yesterday’s ideas.”  At this event, he shared his rationale for “thinking outside the box” in education reform and heard from teachers about how to re-imagine the teaching profession to better meet the needs of both students and teachers.  In a “choose-your-own-adventure” model, teachers chose two topics to delve into more deeply: defining teacher effectiveness and modernizing the teaching profession.  Teachers in the audience collaborated in small groups to discuss those two topics as Mr. Hess visited small groups to listen in on teachers’ discussions.   During the whole group conversation, eighty-five percent of teachers in the audience agreed that some teachers in their school contribute more to student learning and school improvement than others and that these teachers ought to be rewarded.   Also on the topic of evaluation, a full 44% of the audience characterized their most recent evaluation as “not at all useful” in helping to improve their teaching.  When asked to rate elements that would strengthen evaluations, teachers rated “measures of student learning growth” at the top, with “participation in school-wide improvement” close behind. 

 Upon his return to Washington, DC, Mr. Hess blogged about his experience at the Boston T+ Network event.  Read the post.

November 9, 2010: Where are YOU in the Union? A conversation with teachers and union leaders

Featuring: Paul Toner, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and Richard Stutman, President of the Boston Teachers Union

This event topic came directly from some of the teachers we work with.  They expressed feeling unsure of both whether and how to get more involved in the unions that represent them.  Teachers learned about the upcoming priorities of both the MTA and the BTU from Mr. Toner and Mr. Stutman.  Of the teachers in the audience, 59%  agreed that their union protects their rights, while only 13% agreed that their union clearly aligns with and represents their point of view.  Teachers voted on which issues matter most to them and heard Mr. Toner and Mr. Stutman’s responses on how their unions are responding to those issues.  Teachers also heard about how they can get involved and take on more leadership within their unions.  Read the full event description and see data from this event here.

September 24, 2010: Uncommon Reform in the Commonwealth

Featuring: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville

At this event, teachers heard briefly from Governor Patrick about his education platform and his personal commitment to providing a high-quality education for all children in Massachusetts.  Teachers also heard from Secretary Reville on Innovation Schools, which can be led by teams of teachers, and the state’s plan to engage more teachers in decision-making processes.  In a post-event survey, it became clear that teachers are seeking more avenues to get involved in policy decisions at the state level.  In fact, many of respondents expressed feeling uninformed or only somewhat informed about state-level education initiatives.  Teacher evaluation reform, which came up at the event in questions from teachers, is an example of an area where teachers want to have input.  64% of survey respondents said that more frequent classroom observations that yield specific and actionable feedback would help them to become a better teacher.  A summary of all survey data was shared with both Governor Patrick and Secretary Reville.

April 15, 2010: Turning Around Low-Performing Schools: Why Teachers Matter Most

Featuring: Superintendent of Boston Public Schools Dr. Carol Johnson, Senior Policy Analyst at Education Sector Elena Silva, and Director of Community Outreach for the U.S. Department of Education Alberto Retana

This event took place in the midst of statewide and local decision-making around newly named “turnaround schools.”  Teachers were briefed on the national context of school turnaround, including the history and rationale behind the various models.  83% of teachers said that given the right conditions, any school, despite its history and student population, can be “turned around” so that students demonstrate academic growth.  Boston Superintendent Carol Johnson had a chance to hear from teachers about what they would weigh most heavily in their decision to teach in a turnaround school: a great principal (54%) and great colleagues (30%).  Teachers also learned about the Benwood Plan, a successful turnaround model that focused on supporting teachers. 

March 11, 2010: How It’s Being Done:  Urgent Lessons from Unexpected Schools

Featuring: Educational researcher and author Karin Chenoweth & Superintendent of Riverside (NY) School District Diane Scricca

Teachers heard about nationwide examples of high-poverty, high-minority schools that are “beating the odds” – schools with dramatic gains and/or high achievement as measured by student performance data.  84% of teachers agreed that if the nation’s public schools demand higher expectations, all students can rise to the challenge.  Teachers learned about the components these schools have in common and had the opportunity to reflect on to what degree their school and classroom share those components.  Teachers also shared ideas and models of “what’s working” at their own schools.  


December 15, 2009: Racing to the Top: A Forum for Teacher Voice

Featuring:  Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville, Deputy Commissioner Karla Baehr, and Associate Commissioner for Educator Quality David Haselkorn

Teachers were briefed on the Federal Race to the Top initiative (90% of whom said they had little to no familiarity with the initiative prior to the event).   The guest speakers from the MA Department of Elementary & Secondary Education gave teachers more in-depth information on the Massachusetts proposal, which was then in draft form.   After hearing the state’s proposal for innovations on measuring and rewarding effectiveness, teachers weighed in: 86% said that growth in student learning should be part of a teacher’s evaluation and 83% said it is important to include more rigorous, annual evaluations for both teachers and school leaders.  

November 5, 2009: Teaching 2.0: Creating a Profession that Retains Its Top Performers

Featuring: Brad Jupp, Teacher Quality Expert, U.S. Department of Education

Teachers learned about the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts to retain effective teachers and engaged in conversation about the teaching profession and the challenge of retaining effective teachers in urban schools.  Teachers in the audience said that the best things about being a teacher are doing impactful work (48%) and helping students succeed (36%).  The vast majority (92%) of teachers in the audience said that it is important for teachers to be recognized outside their classroom for success with their students. 

In Chicago

July 11, 2013: Education Technology Start-up Collaborative User Conference

Featuring keynote teacher speakers, educator panelists, and over 30 educational technology start-up companies

This summer, Teach Plus supported the Education Technology Start-up Collaborative in bringing together over 400 teachers, administrators, and start-up leaders to collaborate in a daylong conference and provide real input on the use of technology in the classroom. Teachers had the opportunity to engage in hands-on experiences and provide feedback on new education technologies and share teacher voice on education policies related to technology integration.

Teaching Policy Fellow Susan Volbrecht gave a keynote speech on better teaching with limited technology resources. In addition, a panel on integrating technology in the classroom included Teaching Policy Fellow Vonzele Reed and Network member Heather Duncan-Whitt. Teach Plus also used the live polling technology to survey teachers about their use of technology in their work, students’ preparedness for computer-based testing, and their professional development preferences. Please see below for the key takeaways for this event.


Key Takeaway #1:Additional resources and funding are needed to increase the integration of technology into our schools and drive student achievement.


  • While over 90% of K-5 teachers polled strongly or somewhat agreed that the use of technology in their school increased student engagement and achievement, the majority of these teachers (nearly 70%) cited limited resources or funding as the biggest barrier to integrating technology into their work.
  • Similarly, 55% of teachers of Grades 6-12 polled feel that the biggest barrier to integrating technology into their work is limited resources or funding. Over 85% of these teachers strongly or somewhat agreed that the use of technology in their school increased student engagement and achievement.

Key Takeaway #2:: Most teachers use technology once daily to fulfill their professional duties; far fewer are able to use technology once daily with their students. Teachers need additional support and resources in preparing students for the transition to computer-based standardized testing (i.e. NWEA and PARCC).


  • 61% of K-5 teachers said they use technology with their students at least once daily, and over 90% use it at least once daily in their other professional duties.
  • Nearly 50% of teachers of grades 6-12 said they use technology with their students at least once daily, and 98% use it at least once daily in their other professional duties.
  • Only 11% of K-5 teachers and 19% of teachers of grades 6-12 said their students are fully prepared for computer-based standardized testing.

Key Takeaway #3:Most teachers prefer teacher-led professional development and collaboration time to improve the use of technology in their work.


  • Nearly 60% of K-5 teachers and 45% of teachers of grades 6-12 feel that teacher-led PD or collaboration time was their greatest professional development need.

We hope that the summary above is meaningful to you as you reflect on your use of technology in your work and consider the transition to computer-based standardized testing at your school. To learn more about Teach Plus Chicago's Teaching Policy Fellowship and Network, please click here. Please contact Network Coordinator Veena Villivalam with any questions or ideas.

May 15, 2013: REACH Teachers Forum – Feedback on Implementation and Focus on Domain 3: Instruction

Featuring:

Dr. Stephen Zrike Jr., Chief of Elementary Schools Pilsen-Little Village Network, and Maria Baeza, Instructional Effectiveness Specialist at Chicago Public Schools

Also featuring Teacher-Facilitators from the Pilsen-Little Village Network:


Lead Facilitator and Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow:

Shelli Shadday, 8th Grade Teacher at Jungman Elementary School

3b: Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques

– K - 2: Rachel Rhodebeck, Corkery, 3 - 5: Teddy Kuhn, Corkery, and 6 - 8: Tracy Barrientos, Jungman

3d: Using Assessment in Instruction

– K - 2: Amanda Pryce, Ortiz, 3 - 5: Stephanie Stephens, Castellanos, and 6 - 8: Ashley Frantzen, Castellanos



Teachers in the Pilsen-Little Village (P-LV) Network joined together on Wednesday, May 15th, to participate in teacher-led professional development and provide feedback to policymakers on REACH Students, CPS’ new teacher evaluation system. Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows designed the event, beginning with a survey of teacher needs around the CPS Framework for Teaching. From this data, the following objectives were identified and met: (1) create conversations around components 3b and 3d of the CPS Framework for Teaching, (2) provide teachers with new ideas on how to tweak what they already do in the classroom or implement a new strategy aligned to one of the components, and (3) collect teacher feedback on REACH Students for Year 2 implementation.


The REACH Teachers Forum began with opening remarks from Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows Shelli Shadday and Kevin Cram, CPS Chief of Elementary Schools, Dr. Steve Zrike Jr., and Instructional Effectiveness Specialist, Maria Baeza. Dr. Zrike advocated for the importance of teacher leadership in driving student achievement, and Maria Baeza emphasized that high quality teacher evaluation hinges on the effective collaboration of teachers and principals. Next, teacher-facilitators led 2 different breakout sessions organized by grade bands on the CPS Framework for Teaching components 3b: Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques and 3d: Using Assessment in Instruction. For an agenda of the event, click here. Clink on the links below for the other handouts used in the teacher-led breakout sessions.


Breakout Session #1 – 3b: Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques


Breakout Session #2 – 3d: Using Assessment in Instruction


The breakout sessions were followed by live polling, discussion and an exit survey on Year 1 implementation of REACH Students as well as a dinner and networking reception. Please see below for the key takeaways from this event.


Key Takeaway #1:Teachers need more professional development on the CPS Framework for Teaching and a better understanding of the distinctions across performance levels.


  • Half of the teachers polled somewhat/strongly agree that the annual observation and feedback cycle has helped them to make improvements to their teaching practice and become better teachers.
  • Nearly half of those polled are unsure or do not understand the difference between performance levels (Unsatisfactory, Basic, Proficient and Distinguished).

Key Takeaway #2:Provide opportunities for teachers to collaborate with evaluators in developing a professional growth/development plans. For teacher evaluation to drive student achievement and effectively support their growth, teachers need suggestions on how to improve their teaching and an opportunity to share results with a coach or mentor.


  • 88% do not have a professional growth/development plan developed with the evaluator and that guides the work.
  • 75% did not share their evaluation results with a coach/mentor to help improve their practice.

Key Takeaway #3:While many teachers feel that REACH Students has provided post-observation feedback that accurately identified strengths and areas for improvement, they also expressed that their evaluations did not support their professional growth.


  • 82% somewhat/strongly agree that post-observation feedback identified areas of strength in their performance.
  • 78% somewhat/strongly agree that post-observation feedback identified areas of expected growth/areas in which they are expected to improve.
  • 50% did not have evaluations that included suggestions on how to improve their teaching.
  • Only 8% felt that their most recent evaluation was very useful.

Key Takeaway #4:Establish ongoing teacher-led professional development opportunities with guidance on how teachers can access resources and supports. When asked about areas for improvement in the teacher evaluation system, teachers indicated their interest in additional PD modeled after the REACH Teachers Forum.


  • 43% of those polled are unsure of or do not know where to find resources aligned to the CPS Framework for Teaching.
  • 79% feel that the discussion was very useful in expanding their thinking. 21% feel that it was somewhat useful.
  • Nearly 50% polled reported that they were not provided with specific resources to help learn and grow in the areas identified in their observation feedback.

To view a full summary of the data, please click here.Please contact Network Coordinator Veena Villivalam at villivalam@teachplus.org with any questions or ideas for future events.

If you would like to learn more about the Teach Plus Share Fair and upcoming events in Chicago, please contact Network Coordinator Veena Villivalam at vvillivalam@teachplus.org.

April 6, 2013: Collaborate Chicago 2.0: A Conference on the CCSS, NGSS, and More!

Featuring Doug Fisher, Ph.D., Professor of Language and Literacy Education at San Diego State University


On Saturday, April 6th over 350 teachers from across the city joined together to learn about the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and more. Teaching Policy Fellow Michael Moriarty kicked the day off by welcoming all the attendees at Lane Tech College Prep High School, and was followed by Keynote Speaker Doug Fisher, Ph.D., who engaged teachers on the following topic: What to Hold Tight and What to Leave Behind in the CCSS Classroom: For PreK-12 Teachers of ALL Subjects. Over fifty breakout sessions were held, including three professional development sessions led by Teaching Policy Fellow Alumna Monica Sims and Network Members Allan Fluharty and Jennifer Lewin.


The conference culminated with a unique Teach Plus Share Fair where teachers shared best practices while networking with each other. The Share Fair also included a focus on education policy through Collaboration Stations led by Teaching Policy Fellows. Teachers engaged in discussions on the following topics: Teacher Evaluation, Principal Evaluation, Teacher Leadership, School Actions, and Student Assessments.

  • Missed the Teach Plus Share Fair? Download the Presentation and Collaboration Stations Summaries Today: For the Share Fair program, please click here. To view the presentation summaries, please click on the titles within the Share Fair program. For the Collaboration Stations summary, please click here.
  • Connect with Common Core Resources: Click here to view a comprehensive Common Core Resource Guide. This document includes links to curricular resources, state and local websites, and opportunities to stay informed.

If you would like to learn more about the Teach Plus Share Fair and upcoming events in Chicago, please contact Network Coordinator Veena Villivalam at vvillivalam@teachplus.org.

January 22, 2013:Teacher + Union President Share with Karen Lewis

CTU President, Karen Lewis: A conversation among teachers about the future of CTU and CPS.

Featuring: Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union, and Teacher Moderators Michael Moriarty, Tai Basurto, Kylene Young, and Vonzele Reed

The Chicago Teachers Union President engaged with teachers on a range of issues in response to questions submitted by the audience. In addition, teachers participated in live polling as well as a small group activity focused on solutions-oriented strategies to Union involvement in policy. Teacher attendees learned about the Union’s leanings on a range of issues including the nature of its relationship with CPS, peer observations, and career ladders. 94% of those polled are teachers newer to the profession with less than 10 years of experience. One key finding is that the relationship between CTU and CPS needs to be more solutions-oriented. This is supported by the 91% of teachers who describe the relationship between CTU and CPS as one of conflict and distrust. There is also strong support for peer observations. 80% support the CTU in taking the lead in advocating for peer observations for formal teacher evaluation. Participants indicated that there are barriers to involvement and understanding of opportunities and avenues for leadership in CTU. Teaching Policy Fellows will take action and provide a set of recommendations to the Union and the District, using the data collected at the event to make an impact.

Read the full event description and see data from this event here.

October 11, 2012: Are you irreplaceable? A Conversation on the Teacher Retention Crisis in Urban School Districts

Featuring: Tim Daly, President of TNTP

Tim Daly presented the findings of The Irreplaceables Report: Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools. Over the course of the presentation, teachers participated in live polling which allowed for them to weigh in with their experiences. 86% of those polled are in years three through ten of their teaching careers. Additionally, 56% are District teachers, and the remaining 44% work in Charter schools. The majority of the teacher attendees confirmed that schools put forth minimal effort in the area of teacher retention. 58% rated their schools as poor and very poor in retaining high-performing teachers. 71% rated their schools as poor and very poor at supporting the improvement of low-performing teachers. Daly related these teachers’ experiences to The Irreplaceables Report and shared that three in four high-performing teachers would opt to continue teaching if their reason for leaving was addressed by school leaders. About half of the attendees shared that their school leaders encouraged them to continue teaching at their schools. When asked about smart retention strategies, nearly all of the teachers indicated that they would support performance-based pay, school-based teacher retention targets, and the development of career path options in an effort to retain high-performing teachers.

Click here to read The Irreplaceables Report.

August 1, 2012: Collaborate Chicago 1.0: A Conference on the Common Core

Featuring Doug Fisher, Ph.D., Professor of Language and Literacy Education at San Diego State University


Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows started a powerful, teacher-led PD movement in Chicago, resulting in the first iteration of a Common Core conference designed for teachers and by teachers. A key objective of Collaborate Chicago 1.0 was to support teachers in effectively transitioning towards and implementing the Common Core State Standards in classrooms across the city. The summit was held at University of Illinois-Chicago and offered workshops on the Common Core Standards as well as networking opportunities for teachers across the city. Click here to view pictures from the event, or watch a short video here about the Teach Plus Fellows who started the whole movement.

May 24, 2012: Instructional Transformation in Chicago: Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and the Implications on Practice and Policy

Featuring: Didi Swartz, Director of Special Projects at the CPS Office of Instruction

At this event, Director of Special Projects at the CPS Office of Instruction, Didi Swartz, engaged in a discussion with teachers from across Chicago mainly about CCSS and the implications for teacher practice. The purpose of the event was to become aware of what CPS is doing to ready the district to transition to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and provide input on policies that need to be addressed in order to achieve a successful transition. Preparing students to be college-and-career ready is at the center of the major changes underway in Chicago Public Schools.

Teachers expressed a significant desire for more information about CPS policies and the implications on practice in the transition to Common Core State Standards. Teach Plus wants to support teachers in having their voices heard in the implementation of CCSS and launched a CCSS Teacher Task Force on practice and policy.

You can click here to access Didi Swartz’s presentation. Click here for the full event summary.

March 13, 2012: Teacher Collaboration Time to Improve Student Achievement

Featuring Doug Fisher, Ph.D., Professor of Language and Literacy Education at San Diego State University


Featuring: Ben Lummis, Vice President of the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL) This Teach Plus Network event had a dual purpose: (1) for teachers to learn about effective collaboration practices to implement at their schools while providing feedback to influence policy and (2) for NCTL Vice President Ben Lummis to hear teacher input on collaboration in the context of a redesigned school day to share with the District. Teachers engaged in live polling throughout the event, allowing them to weigh in with their experiences. 76% of those polled are in years three through ten of their teaching careers. Additionally, 75% work in District schools and 19% work in Charter schools.

Lummis shared with teachers that high quality teacher collaboration time includes emphasis on one of the following: relying on building expertise, strengthening instructional practice, monitoring student performance, and making your progress public. Additionally, high performing schools dedicate professional development time efforts such as: school wide professional development, peer observations, grade/content level team meetings focused on sharing practices, and coaching provided by instructional leaders. The presentation culminated with an explanation of the NCTL Framework for Assessing Teacher Collaboration and was followed another opportunity for teachers to share their experiences. Only 24% of teachers felt that they had a voice in how teacher collaboration time is structured at their schools. 73% felt that the aspects of collaboration time that needed the most improvement at their schools were: grade/content level team meetings, peer observations, and coaching from instructional leaders. When asked about the support needed from school leadership to ensure effective teacher collaboration time, half of the teachers indicated that would want teacher voice in planning the master schedule, resources and training on analysis of data and student work, commitment to preserving the collaboration time, and a coherent school wide instructional focus.

Click here to read this policy brief: It’s About Time: Empower Teachers to Effectively Collaborate by 2012-2013 Teaching Policy Fellows.

December 8, 2010: What Matters Most to You? Solutions-Minded Teachers Advise Michelle Rhee on the Profession's Pressing Issues

Featuring: Michelle Rhee, Founder & CEO of Students First

Teachers from CPS district and charter schools attended this T+ Network event held on December 8th, 2010. The majority of teachers in the room (70%) have between 3 and 10 years of teaching experience. Teachers shared with Ms. Rhee their opinions and ideas on some of the most pressing issues facing CPS and schools around the country.  Teachers also weighed in on some of Ms. Rhee’s questions and proposals using live polling technology.  When teachers were asked which idea holds the most promise for keeping effective teachers in the schools that need them the most,  38% said effective administrators, while 36% indicated that supportive working conditions would keep them .  Teachers in attendance said they wanted to be supported in their development and rewarded for their success with students. Seventy-one percent of teachers agreed that they would like to be offered merit-based pay (37% strongly agreed).  Nearly three-fourths of the T+ Network teachers (72%) agreed that the school day should be extended to allow for additional instructional time. Finally, the majority (77%) do not see removing tenure protections as discouraging to keeping great teachers in the classroom.

October 25, 2010: Supporting Achievement, Reaping Results

Featuring: Dr. Christopher Koch, Illinois State Superintendent, and Ms. Audrey Soglin, Executive Director of the Illinois Education Association

Dr. Koch and Ms. Soglin shared their visions for teacher evaluation in Illinois. The state’s plans include a Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee (PEAC) that is working toward creating rules for teacher evaluation that all districts in the state will use as they create new evaluation systems. The majority of teachers in the audience agreed with these policymakers that change is necessary, since 56% of the teachers felt that their last evaluation was not at all helpful in supporting their instruction.

Teachers in the audience sent a clear message to policy makers about WHO they would want to observe their instructional practice; the vast majority of teachers in the audience (92%) were comfortable with a fellow teacher conducting their observations. Teachers would also like to be observed frequently throughout the school year with 89% desiring three or more annual observations. Many teachers seemed very interested in how the state and district plan to evaluate those who teach non-tested subjects and grades; Dr. Koch and Ms. Soglin agreed that one of the challenges the PEAC must tackle is how to fairly and accurately assess teachers who have traditionally not had standards written for the subject areas and grades that they teach. Teach Plus National Director of Programs, Dr. Heather Peske, explained this is a national problem and one about which teachers at T+ Network events in each site are expressing concern. Teachers in these non-tested grades and subjects who voiced opinions at the event said they do want to be able to measure their performance based on data as long as the standards are applied fairly and consistently across all subjects and grade levels.  See data from this event.

April 13, 2010: Supporting Great Teaching: Forging a New Path Forward

Featuring: Dr. Tim Knowles, Director of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Knowles facilitated a conversation with teachers and other state and local policy makers, "Supporting Great Teaching: Forging a New Path Forward." Knowles used research data from UEI to spark a robust dialogue about changing teacher preparation programs and teacher evaluation, and new leadership roles teachers may attain without leaving the classroom.   During the conversation, teachers voiced a need to improve working conditions in their respective buildings.  They noted that to do this, they need to feel their voices are heard and they want more time to plan for instruction and to work with colleagues.  

March 4, 2010: Why Teachers Matter Most

Featuring: Tim Daly, President of The New Teacher Project

Tim Daly met with a group of about 100 teachers from across Chicago to discuss the policy changes that are bringing teaching into the 21st century. Daly presented findings from The New Teacher Project’s recent research, The Widget Effect (read the report here), which outlines the negative consequences of treating teachers as interchangeable parts rather than professionals. Using live polling technology, all teachers had the opportunity to weigh in on timely issues such as teacher evaluation and effective ways to measure growth in student learning. When teachers were asked if they believe that clear, measurable standards of effectiveness are critical for teaching to be recognized as a true profession, a majority of audience members agreed (65% strongly agreed; 23% somewhat agreed). When teachers were asked to what extent they agree that growth in student learning (as measured by student achievement) should be included as part of a teacher’s evaluation, again a majority of audience members agreed (30% strongly agreed; 51% somewhat agreed).

In Indianapolis

April 26-28, 2013: Indiana's Common Core and PARCC: Professional Learning and Collaboration

Last weekend (April 26-28), more than 65 teachers came together at Arlington Community High School for InnovatED Indianapolis, a first-of-its-kind competition for teachers inspiring innovation across Indianapolis. Teacher teams were supported through a weekend-long social design process to develop a solution to an education problem. Twenty-three schools from Marion County were represented, including charters, IPS, Speedway and Wayne, Warren, and Washington Townships. In partnership with Teach for America and the Lilly Foundation, Teach Plus was able to provide $7000 in development grants to the winning ideas, including a city-wide poetry slam initiative and a nutrition access program that teaches students to prepare their own healthy food. Overall, thirteen ideas were presented, ranging from Common Core report cards and district-charter collaboration to an IPS teacher retention program and an anti-bullying collective. Participants ranged from first year teachers to veterans with more than thirty years of experience. This prime example of teacher leadership and collaboration represents how much can be accomplished if we harness the knowledge, creativity and experience of classroom teachers.

September 29, 2012: Indiana's Common Core and PARCC: Professional Learning and Collaboration

More than 400 teachers attended this conference held at Marian University. Co-sponsored by the Indiana Department of Education, Marian University, and Teach Plus, the summit offered a variety of workshops on the Indiana Common Core Standards as well as networking opportunities for teachers across the state.

Teach Plus Fellows and Dr. Tony Bennett kicked off the morning by encouraging teachers to act as leaders of the common core in their home schools. Participants spent the rest of the day in workshops covering everything from PARCC assessments to content-area literacy. At the conclusion of the day, Teach Plus sponsored a Networking Reception at the Allison Mansion where teachers were able to talk about how INCC will impact them as professionals.

Conference materials are available on the IDOE Learning Connection. Join the "IDOE - Curriculum and Instruction" Community, and find the September 29th folder. Anyone, including those who were unable to attend, can access these materials. You can also join the conversation by following @TeachPlusIndy and @TheMissHannon on Twitter #INCC2012.

April 17, 2012: Opportunity Schools in Indianapolis- Let your voice be heard

Over fifty Marion County teachers participated in an event sponsored by Teach Plus that allowed teachers to learn the details of the Opportunity Schools proposal and engage with David Harris, CEO of The Mind Trust.

Using audience response technology, teachers had the unique opportunity to share their views on a variety of key questions, including school autonomy, school choice, merit pay, and early childhood education. This was the first event on the future of Indianapolis schools targeted directly to teachers since the release of the Opportunity Schools proposal.

Teach Plus, a national non-profit organization, engages teachers who come together to connect with highly motivated peers, engage national and local policy leaders, learn about innovative approaches to retaining effective teachers, and become a voice for change within the teaching profession. The Teaching Policy Fellowship helps to retain outstanding teachers in urban classrooms by investing them in the education policy process.

The event was organized by a team of current Teaching Policy Fellows in Indianapolis. During the 18-month program, Teaching Policy Fellows gain a foundation in education policy, research, and best practices from around the nation that enable them to advocate effectively for policies that will better serve students and retain excellent teachers.

In Memphis

October 15, 2012: Conversation with the Commissioner Continues

On October 15th Commissioner Huffman joined Memphis teachers at “Conversation with the Commissioner Continues.” 168 teachers and 25 community members joined TN Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman and Teach Plus VP for Policy Alice Johnson Cain in small group discussion on the use of student surveys in teacher evaluations. Teachers offered their recommendations to be shared with other districts across Tennessee that are interested to begin implementation of surveys – currently Memphis is the only district in the state and country that uses student survey data in teacher evaluation scores. Kevin Huffman said it was the best feedback he’d ever received on the subject and shared these key takeaways from the discussion at the conclusion of the event:

  • Districts should aim to share results with teachers so they can use them to grow.
  • Tailoring survey language to each grade level will improve accuracy of student feedback.
  • Shortening the length of the survey may encourage greater student focus.
  • Districts should consider the date and time of administration to ensure effective implementation.
  • Survey administration should be normalized to encourage consistent implementation across schools and districts.

Read a personal thank you letter from the Commissioner here.

September 27, 2012: Teacher Leadership in Action: The Road to Teacher Retention

At the first Teach Plus Network Event of the year on September 27, 68 teachers and 4 community members engaged in discussion regarding the link between teacher leadership and teacher retention. Teachers gave suggestions for the types of leadership opportunities that excite and develop teachers in order to remain in the classroom longer. A teacher leadership panel consisting of seven highly involved teacher leaders shared their leadership experiences through organizations like Stand for Children, The Envoy Project, Teach Plus, Memphis Teacher Residency, Memphis Education Association and achievements such as National Board Certification, serving on working groups, and mentoring new teachers:

  • Jon Alfuth, Hamilton High School
  • Brittany Clark, Middle College High School
  • Melissa Collins, John P. Freeman Optional Elementary School
  • Jesse Jeff, Delano Optional School
  • Tamera Malone, Kirby High School
  • Karen Vogelsang, Keystone Elementary School
  • Alvin Wright, Craigmont High School

Read a summary of the data collected at the event here.

June 19 and 26, 2012: Teach Plus Sizzling Summer Series: Cool Ideas for Teacher Support

Featuring: Monica Jordan, Coordinator of Teacher Support & Reflective Practice and Dr. Tracey Wilson Analyst Office of Teacher Effectiveness Measurement

This Summer Event Series, focused on Teacher Support, offered teachers and principals to share their recommendations for new teacher support options to be implemented in the coming school year. The feedback shared at both the June 19th and June 26th events was used to create a recommendation memo sent to guest speaker Monica Jordan, Coordinator of Teacher Support & Reflective Practice, to inform teacher support decisions for the upcoming school year.

31 teachers shared their feedback on Teacher Support as a part of the Teach Plus Summer Event Series, and 22 additional teachers shared their thoughts in a survey replicating the questions from both events.

The recommendation memo shared with Monica Jordan can be found here in its entirety. Please feel free to share with any interested teachers you may know or contact Sarah Shepson, sshepson@teachplus.org with any further ideas on teacher support!

In addition to teacher support, teacher questions on TVAAS data were answered by Dr. Tracey Wilson at the June 19th event. That same week, TN SCORE released the policy memo "TVAAS: An Introduction to Value-Added in Tennessee." This four page memo gives an overview of how TVAAS is calculated and its role in the education landscape in Tennessee. Make sure to click the above link; it's a must read! You may also contact Dr. Tracey Wilson to get answers to lingering questions: wilsontn@mcsk12.net.

March 29, 2012:Your Evaluations, Your Voice: Building the TEM to Last

Featuring: Tequilla Banks, Teacher Effectiveness Initiative (TEI) Executive Director

85 teachers joined together to discuss their experience with the Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEM) to help ensure the TEM is implemented effectively in Memphis City Schools. The opinions shared on March 29th will help to shape TEM 2.0 - the second year of implementation. Teachers shared a variety of recommendations with TEI Executive Director, Tequilla Banks, which ranged from how to best communicate honest feedback on the observation process to whether or not teachers believe the TEM has increased their effectiveness.

View the data summary powerpoint from the event here.

This data summary was shared on April 4th with the TEI Cross Functional team led by the guest speaker, Ms. Tequilla Banks. The team found the results of teacher feedback intriguing and thought-provoking. While we emphasize the fact that feedback does not make policy, we certainly know that quality feedback such as this influences policy! If you have any further feedback, please email temoffice@mcsk12.net.

To stay involved in the TEM conversation, sign up for the Teach Plus News Blast and Teacher Leadership Emails here.

February 2, 2012:Teacher Leaders Building Teacher Effectiveness Through Peer Assistance and Review

Featuring the Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) Expert Panel: Jeffrey Chipman, Teacher at Bellevue MS and PAR Panel Member, Dr. Sherrish Holloman, Department of Teacher Talent and Effectiveness, Dr. Julia Koppich, National PAR Consultant, and Keith Williams, MEA President and PAR Panel Co-Chair

This event featured a chance for teachers to learn about the new Memphis program, Peer Assistance and Review, by asking questions and engaging in discussion with the PAR Expert Panel. Attendees heard from the Expert Panel regarding how PAR will be used in Memphis to support teachers in their individual professional development (Read the transcript of Expert Panel answers to PAR questions). While the Memphis PAR program is still in Phase 1 Implementation, ongoing teacher feedback is critical to ensure PAR supports teachers most effectively. Attendees shared their thoughts on which teachers should be prioritized to participate in PAR as well as options to successfully communicate information on PAR to MCS. For an in-depth recap of the event, read the event summary memo.

Interested to learn more about PAR in Memphis and its implementation across the country?

November 17, 2011: TEM: Teachers Ensuring Effective Implementation

At this T+ Network event teachers gave feedback on the implementation of the Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEM) in its pilot year. Tequilla Banks, Department of Teacher Talent & Effectiveness, presented data from a recent teacher survey conducted by the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative (TEI) showing teachers’ reactions to the implementation of the TEM. Around 100 teachers engaged in small group discussion and answered live-polling questions to give suggestions to TEI on how to improve implementation of the TEM. Discussion focused on differentiated professional development opportunities for teachers, the length and number of observations conducted per year, using PLCs effectively, and whether or not to follow the state of Tennessee’s lead on observation policy changes. 

The recent adjustment of the state TEAM observation model allows observers to complete two separate observations within one classroom visit, so an observer could hold one pre-conference and one post-conference for two observations. This change is primarily to relieve some of the burden off of administrators as they complete a large volume of observations. 57% of teachers in attendance either strongly agreed or agreed MCS should allow observers to complete two observations in one classroom visit. 92% teachers also suggested that teachers should be able to collaborate with observers to determine the final observation score. 

Teachers advocated for a wider array of professional development opportunities that align with the TEM, such as observation videos of teachers for each indicator at different levels on the rubric, cross-referenced by grade and content area. Teachers are also eager to see real-time coaching from their instructional coaches in order to see how to successfully complete TEM indicators with the students they work with daily. 

T+ Teaching Policy Fellows served as small group discussion facilitators for this event. Their notes and quantitative data from the live-polling questions were used to inform a policy memo to Tequilla Banks and the TEI Executive Committee to include teacher voice in future TEM implementation. 

Contact Sarah Shepson at sshepson@teachplus.org to help plan the next T+ Network Event!

November 2, 2011: American Teacher Screening

This event featured the screening of American Teacher, a documentary that highlights the need for compensation reform in order to attract and retain great teachers. Mike Neal, TEI Compensation Coordinator, joined teachers to discuss future compensation solutions for Memphis City Schools. Teachers responded to a few questions using interactive polling technology and elaborated on the results in an open forum. Compensation plays a major role in a teacher’s decision to continue teaching: 48% said it was a significant factor, 36% said it was somewhat a factor. When asked to rate factors that should determine compensation on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 being least important and 5 being most important), teachers chose “Improving Student Achievement” and “Years of experience” as the most important factors. 70% of teachers either strongly or somewhat support increasing base salaries with the opportunity to earn professional level salaries after four years of teaching. Mike Neal, TEI Compensation Coordinator, encouraged teachers to partner with TEI to continue the discussion for compensation solutions through a Compensation Working Group or a Career Pathways Group. Contact Sarah Shepson at sshepson@teachplus.org for how to get involved!

Teachers are encouraged to continue the discussion by hosting their own community screening and weighing in at the Teach Plus Online Forum where the American Teacher producer, Ninive Calegari, has posed a question specifically to T+ Network teachers across the country.

September 27, 2011: Conversation with the Commissioner: How Can We Best Support & Retain Effective Teachers?

Over 150 teachers turned out for the T+ Network Event, “Conversation with the Commissioner” in which teachers shared their opinions on the state of education reform in Tennessee. Commissioner Kevin Huffman engaged in Q&A with teachers to cover a wide variety of topics such as teacher compensation, data driven instruction, and teacher evaluation. MCS teachers overwhelmingly stated that discussing policy with Commissioner of Huffman and with one another other is a useful and necessary step to create change and make progress for students. 88% found the discussion somewhat to very useful, and 99% said they were likely to attend another T+ event. 

Teachers answered live-polling questions focusing on current education reform topics. If expected to annually produce one academic year’s worth of growth for students in their class, MCS teachers felt students should be in their class at least 75% of the school year. Teachers’ responses to understanding TVAAS suggest there is more work to be done to make sure teachers feel comfortable with the data. In terms of compensation, teachers mostly agree that increasing student achievement and working in the most academically challenging schools are important factors in determining compensation. 33% of teachers agreed that addressing the need for effective teachers and enhanced professional development opportunities for teachers is a positive course of action. 

The data gathered from this T+ Network Event has been shared with Commissioner Huffman in an effort to include Memphis teachers’ perspective in education policy. Please see our current event opportunities to stay engaged in local education reform conversations and advocate for what is best for teachers in MCS and our students.

January 31, 2011: Impact the Initiative: Teachers Weigh in on TEI

Featuring: An interactive discussion among results–oriented MCS teachers, Dr. Kriner Cash, Superintendent of Memphis City Schools, Tequilla Banks, Executive Director of Teacher Talent and Effectiveness, and Colleen Oliver, Senior Education Program Officer of the Gates Foundation

At this event, teachers shared their ideas for informing the work of the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative’s four strategies: defining teacher effectiveness, strategically hiring teachers, properly compensating teachers, and providing safe working conditions. All eyes are on Memphis as the national reform community is being informed by MCS’ outcomes from the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative. 

Teachers in attendance participated in interactive discussion with the speakers, giving input and feedback on areas of the new TN teacher evaluation, TVAAS training, and new policies resulting from the TEI work.  96% of teachers in the audience responded that they strongly agree or somewhat agree that clear, measureable standards of effectiveness are critical for teaching to be recognized as a true profession. Additionally, 83% of teachers expressed a belief that, given the right conditions, any school (despite its history and student population) can be turned around so students demonstrate academic growth.  Conversation ensued about what the “right conditions” actually are.  Responses included: strong principal leadership, teams of like minded teachers, and supportive working environment with available resources. 

The data gathered (both qualitative and quantitative) from the Network Event has been shared with local policymakers in an effort to include teacher voice in the continued work of the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative. 

October 28, 2010: Teacher Evaluation: Supporting Improvement, Achieving Results

Featuring: Tomeka Hart, TEAC member & MCS Board Commissioner; Carla Franklin, TEI Coordinator of Evaluations and Tenure; Celine Coggins, Teach Plus CEO/Founder

Teachers learned about the policy recommendations to the TN State Board of Education that will affect the new evaluation system for teachers. Additionally, teachers gained local context about the three observation rubrics being piloted throughout the district in an effort to inform the new evaluation system. Teachers in the audience said that the current evaluation system does not support or improve their teaching practice (71%). The vast majority (85%) of teachers in the audience were positive about increased observation and feedback helping them become better teachers.  See data from this event.

In Los Angeles

May 2, 2013: Discussion Roundtable with LAUSD Board District 6 Candidate Monica Ratliff

This event gave teachers and education stakeholders an opportunity to interact directly with Monica Ratliff, a candidate in the LAUSD Board District 6 race.

At the event, Monica was able to deeply engage with all teachers. Monica had a chance to introduce herself and her candidacy, as well as answer Q&A from participants. Monica also was able to ask participants questions regarding their take on school autonomy and quality professional development. A few of the highlights can be found below:


  • Monica has a strong interest in eliminating the money being spent on travel and consultants at the district level; believes that that money could be used to fund better PD and teacher autonomy. She also feels that the district should be looking internally for experts.
  • One interesting idea brought to the table (which is a possible idea for a Teach Plus project) is an idea to keep principals connected to the classroom through a variety of innovative ways, such as creating a principal co-teaching method, where principals have the chance to co-teach a period new or struggling teachers.
  • Lastly, Monica stressed her desire to keep Superintendent Deasy, and also praised how he has limited the amount of tenure granted to new teachers, saying, “we are no longer handing out tenure like candy….this profession is not for everyone.”

 

The event was also covered in the local media. You can read an article from LA School Report here, as well as a piece from 2 of our Fellows who attended here.

September 13, 2012: A Conversation with Superintendent Deasy: The Future of LA Schools

Featuring: John Deasy, Superintendent of LAUSD

On September 13, 2012, over 100 teachers and education leaders joined Superintendent Deasy for an interactive conversation to discuss the budget realities and instructional needs of teachers in Los Angeles. Teachers responded to a host of polling questions, and had an opportunity to share with the Superintendent what they need to be successful this school year. See below for some of the key takeaways from the event:


Teachers want school improvement efforts to focus in a number of areas. Polling data showed a diversity in responses when asked to prioritize school improvement efforts:


Strong instructional leadership (31%)
Robust systems of support for teachers (29%)
Shared conception of good instruction (19%)
Changes in time (e.g. more time, flexibility) (19%)

A teacher noted that strong instructional leadership would incorporate the other choices, and Dr. Deasy emphasized the district's focus on improving robust systems of support for teachers.


Teachers have clear recommendations for successfully incorporating the use of tablets in classrooms. Dr. Deasy shared his commitment to provide a tablet for each student and teacher in LAUSD over the next 15-18 months. When asked what supports were needed, teachers rated “content-specific professional development on using tablets” as the top choice (42%)and “access to educational software” as the second choice (27%). Ensuing discussion included the wealth of e-book titles that could be made available on tablets.


Principals should set the tone for instructional leadership. When asked about what effective principals do, the highest rated choice was “give frequent, constructive feedback” (43%). The next highest choice was “Other” (33%). Several teachers noted that they selected “Other” because they felt that a principal’s most important job is to set the instructional and organizational tone for the school.

May 16, 2012: A Teacher Town Hall with Mayor Villaraigosa

Featuring: Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles

On May 16, 2012, over 100 teachers and education leaders joined Mayor Villaraigosa for a conversation to discuss the current budget realities for teachers in the state of California. Teachers responded to a host of budget-related polling questions, and had an opportunity to share with the Mayor how they are moving forward despite cuts to education funding. See below for some of the key takeaways from the event:

Teachers continue to do whatever it takes to bring resources to their classrooms. Polling data showed that close to three-quarters (72%) of teachers have spent over $300 out of pocket for their classrooms, with 17% spending over $1,000 in a single school year.

Teachers are clear about what should be funded first. When asked to rate which elements of the teaching profession would be essential to fund first with additional revenue, teachers believe that funding should be used to ensure smaller class sizes, bring back enriched curriculum (such as the arts, music, etc.) and re-install student supports in the schools, such as instructional aides and counselors.

There should be some stakes tied to additional education funding. Approximately 2/3 of teachers (65%) agree that additional education funding should be tied to some form of results. Some suggested outcomes to tie to funding included graduation rates, college attendance rates, and job placement rates.

April 19, 2012: Everyone at the Table: Teachers Build Their Own Evaluation

On April 19, 2012, teachers were able to “Build Their Own Evaluation,” using materials and activities from the website “Everyone at the Table”. After a whole-group discussion that highlighted the various teacher evaluation systems currently being proposed by LAUSD, UTLA and charter leaders, teachers broke out into smaller focus groups led by Los Angeles Teaching Policy Fellows to share their insights on the various components of multi-measure teacher evaluations. Teachers even had the chance to assign various weights to those multiple measures, allowing them to ultimately design their ideal teacher evaluation. Read below for some of the key takeaways from the event:

Current teacher evaluations just aren't working for most teachers -- but there is hope. Polling data showed that 79% of teachers said that their last evaluation was only somewhat rigorous or not rigorous at all, and only 10% indicated that their last evaluation was useful in helping them improve their practice as an educator.

Multiple measures are essential to include in meaningful evaluation systems. While classroom observation received the most essential rating on a five-point scale, the range between other components, such as student achievement data and external responsibilities and leadership roles, was quite narrow, indicating that teachers believe there is value in including a variety of multiple measures in evaluations.

One size does not fit all. A majority of the teachers in the audience said they would find it very helpful to their professional growth (71%) if evaluations were based on the specific grade level and subject they teach.

Following this event and similar focus groups at schools around the city, the Los Angeles Teaching Policy Fellows are working on a policy memo that will be distributed to LAUSD, UTLA and charter leadership. Please check back here in the next few weeks to read the final product.

February-March, 2012: What’s the Value of AGT? A Series of Conversations Across LAUSD

The Los Angeles Teaching Policy Fellows worked in partnership with the Los Angeles School District (LAUSD) to host four educational events around Academic Growth Time (AGT). The events were geographically distributed throughout Los Angeles as to best provide teachers throughout the district with an opportunity to voice their opinions.

At these events, teachers had the opportunity to hear about AGT from Noah Bookman, LAUSD Director of Performance Management, as well as from current teachers. The events attracted a cross section of teachers ranging all instructional levels, as well as years of experience. Teachers who attended the events had the opportunity to engage in a robust conversation about the hopes and concerns with the use of AGT. Teachers were particularly vocal about the use of AGT in teacher evaluations. Presently, LAUSD has not concluded on the exact percentage that AGT will play in the currently piloted multiple measure evaluation system. Opinions on the percentage of the evaluation that should be encompassed by an AGT score ranged from 0% to 50%. Generally teachers shared concern with the reliability of AGT as a measure of an individual teacher’s instruction and that AGT may be used to make firing and hiring decisions. Nonetheless, teachers hoped that AGT may provide teachers with timely feedback in order to help them identify areas of growth as well as be linked to intentional professional development.

Over the next few weeks, Teaching Policy Fellows will be reviewing the quantitative and qualitative data collected during the four AGT events and publishing next step recommendations for LAUSD in a policy memo. Noah Bookman and his team are awaiting to hear the feedback from the event to help shape their work on the Teaching and Learning Framework.

Check back soon to read the policy memo from the events.

November 17, 2011: The Use of Student Growth Measures in LA Schools

Featuring: Noah Bookman, policy analyst with LAUSD; Dr. Rob Meyer, value-added expert from the Value-Added Resource Center at the University of Wisconsin; and Chris Bertelli, Executive Director at The College-Ready Promise

The use of student growth data is gaining traction in Los Angeles in both district and charter schools. This T+ Network event aimed to inform teachers about the metrics involved in Academic Growth over Time (AGT) and Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) data currently being implemented in thousands of schools across the city, as well as to give teachers the opportunity to share their opinions on the use of student data. In order to successfully accomplish these objectives, Teach Plus hosted a dynamic panel of experts: Noah Bookman, a policy analyst with LAUSD, Dr. Rob Meyer, a value-added expert from the Value-Added Resource Center at the University of Wisconsin, and Chris Bertelli, the Executive Director at The College-Ready Promise.

After the panelists provided a background to the work they were doing, 40 teachers weighed in by responding to questions using interactive polling technology and providing their own feedback in an open forum. When asked what percentage of a teacher’s evaluation should be comprised of student growth measures, an overwhelming 89% of teachers believed that student growth should play a role in evaluation. The larger debate came when asked what percentage of a teacher’s evaluation should be comprised of this data- with 41% of teachers saying it should comprise between 16-30%, while 11% of teachers said it should account for 0%. Follow up comments revealed that teachers believe student growth measures have a place, but were concerned about lack of alignment of the assessments to the curriculum.

Teachers were also given a chance to identify their greatest concern and their best hope for the implementation of student growth measures. 44% of teachers feared that this data could lead to an overemphasis on test-taking. Attendees also noted concerns that not all variables are taken into account to acknowledge that each child is unique. However, 43% of teachers were optimistic that the use of student growth measures would lead to helping teachers identify strengths and weaknesses in their pedagogy, and another 39% feel that it will help their school create meaningful professional development. Lastly, teachers were asked how they wanted to be engaged in the development of student growth measures in their district or school. Half of the attendees selected standing Teacher Advisory Panels to give ongoing feedback and 37% selected ad hoc Focus Groups to give feedback.

November 1, 2011: American Teacher Screening

This event featured a free screening of American Teacher, a documentary that highlights the need for compensation reform in order to attract and retain great teachers. Following the viewing, John Lee, moderated a discussion with over 100 participants about their reactions to the film and ways in which teacher compensation could be re-envisioned. Teachers responded to a few questions using interactive polling technology and elaborated on the results in an open forum. While 10% of teachers polled said that compensation did not factor at all in their decision to stay in teaching, 73% of the audience said that it significantly or somewhat did. When asked what compensation should be based on, teachers rated improving student achievement based in part on standardized tests and successful evaluations at the top of their list, followed closely by taking on leadership positions at the school or district level. Although teachers still value years of experience in determining compensation it ranked last among the factors listed. Lastly, when asked to consider a proposal on compensation reform from LAUSD Superintendent, John Deasy, 69% of teachers said that they would strongly or somewhat support seeing changes such as giving teachers significant raises early in their careers, increasing compensation for employees who take on challenging assignments, and getting rid of the traditional salary scale that awards raises simply for additional degrees earned, years of service and salary-point credits.

Teachers are encouraged to continue the discussion by hosting their own community screening and weighing in at an online forum where the film’s producer, Ninive Calegari, has posed a question specifically to T+ Network teachers across the country.

September 22, 2011: A Conversation with Superintendent Deasy: How to Best Develop, Evaluate, and Retain our Teachers

Featuring: Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy

Superintendent Deasy engaged teachers in a conversation about where the district is heading regarding issues such as district responsibility, observation feedback, and teacher effectiveness. A majority of teachers (85%) agreed that the district is NOT doing enough to identify, recognize and retain effective teachers. Follow-up comments revealed that it is not just the responsibility of the district, but also a responsibility of principals and colleagues to provide the support necessary to achieve these goals. As the district rolls out its pilot evaluation program this year, it was not surprising that a good portion of the conversation concerned who is best equipped to provide feedback to teachers. When asked this question, a strong majority of teachers answered that peer teachers could offer the best feedback during an observation, more so than a district official or principal. Conversation then revealed that this is based on a relationship of trust; Dr. Deasy was very interested in a suggestion to have teachers, principals and district officials train with one another to build stronger relationships as the evaluation program rolls out. On the topic of teacher effectiveness, 61% of teachers believed that either problem-solving sessions with colleagues or teacher-designed professional development are two of the most promising strategies for improving teacher effectiveness. In addition to these teacher-focused strategies, other innovative ideas, such as video coaching seemed to intrigue teachers as a cost-effective and efficient option.

Lastly, he also tweeted this regarding the Teaching & Learning Framework-- @DrDeasyLAUSD: As promised 2 the audience, here are the resources you should have to understand the work of Supporting All Employees http://bit.ly/pC0p6I

March 14, 2011: An Evening with the Mayor: Teachers weigh in on education in Los Angeles

Featuring:  Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles

At this event, Mayor Villaraigosa engaged teachers in a conversation about critical education issues in Los Angeles, including teacher effectiveness, layoffs, and teacher compensation.

A majority of teachers (72%) agreed that growth in student learning should be included as part of a teacher’s evaluation. Follow up comments revealed that some teachers wanted multiple measures of student growth, including portfolios.

Given the 7,000 layoff notices that went out to LAUSD teachers this week, the conversation on quality-blind layoffs was particularly timely. Mayor Villaraigosa agreed with the majority (63%) of teachers who stated that seniority and quality indicators, such as teacher performance and professional behavior, should be taken into consideration when a district faces Reduction in Force decisions. Only 2% stated that only seniority should be considered and 25% of teachers believed that only quality indicators should be considered.

On the topic of teacher compensation, 88% of teachers agreed that the current salary structure needs to be revamped in order to keep great teachers in the profession. Additionally, 85% felt that some teachers at their schools contributed more to student learning and school improvement than others, and should be rewarded accordingly.

January 24, 2011: Moving Beyond the LA Times: How do teachers define effective teaching?

Featuring:  Dr. John Deasy, LAUSD Superintendent Designate, Ms. Yolie Flores, LAUSD Board Member

The Los Angeles T+ Network kicked off with an inaugural event on January 24, 2011 during which teachers provided input and feedback to LAUSD Superintendent Designate, John Deasy, and LAUSD Board Member, Yolie Flores.  Dr. Deasy and Ms. Flores engaged thoughtful and solutions-oriented Los Angeles teachers in a discussion on teacher effectiveness and evaluation.

Nearly all teachers (91%) agreed that clear, measurable standards of effectiveness are critical for teaching to be recognized as a true profession.  After discussing different ways to gauge teacher performance (including student academic growth over the course of an academic year, student engagement, teacher/peer observation, and principal observation), 96% of teachers strongly agreed that effective evaluation must be based on multiple measures.  

Only 8% of teachers said that their most recent evaluation was very helpful in improving their teaching and 46% said it was not useful at all.  Follow up comments revealed that some teachers are observed on a daily basis and receive valuable feedback on a weekly basis.  In contrast, one quarter of teachers said that they had not received an evaluation within the past calendar year.  Additionally, a majority (68%) of teachers stated that their most recent evaluation was not rigorous at all.  

While value-added analysis is gaining traction as a tool for measuring effectiveness, only 18% of teachers stated that they have a clear understanding of value-added analysis.  When teachers asked Dr. Deasy about the LA Times’ methodology, Dr. Deasy responded by saying that there was not a problem with the math, but he would want to take into account different factors.

In Washington, D.C.

May 11, 2013: Cutting to the Core: Washington D.C.

Over 100 educators engaged in a variety of sessions to share best practices on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation and voiced their opinions on what they still need to effectively shift our city’s classroom to the CCSS. We received a lot of positive feedback from the Cutting to the Core attendees. 100% of attendees indicated that the opening plenary session, the breakout sessions, and the networking reception were “good” or “excellent.”

During our morning plenary session outstanding panelists, Latisha Coleman, teacher at Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School, Chrisanne LaHue, Manager of Instructional Coaching Program, Office of Teaching and Learning at DCPS, and Callie Riley, Senior Policy Associate at Achieve, shared their thoughts on shifts with Common Core. Small groups of attendees collaborated with each other shared what type of professional development is most useful. 90% of conference attendees believe that CCSS represent a good shift for our country and nearly three quarters want ‘content and grade level specific PD with CCSS coaches’ for support while effectively implementing the CCSS in our classrooms.

Kylie Alsofrom and Drew Snodgrass, teachers at DC Preparatory, were selected from among all the teacher facilitators for their exceptional presentations. Alsofrom and Snodgrass will travel to Los Angeles to present their winning sessions to teachers there as part of an upcoming conference. Kasha Hayes, an instructional coach at H.D. Woodson, and John Mahoney, a math teacher at Benjamin Banneker, were selected as winners in their presentation categories. Hayes’ session on Close Reading and Mahoney’s session on shifts in the math classroom with CCSS were both attendee favorites. All four of our top facilitators will receive a prize for their leadership excellence.

Session Presenter Materials
Opening Panel & Discussion Latisha Coleman, Chrisanne LaHue, Callie Riley
Adapting Your Curriculum for Common Core mailto:karmor@tnasd.org
Arctic Animals and Accountable Talk Alyssa Conti
Beyond Design: Common Core with Diverse Readers Clare Berke
Building Super Writers Melissa Denbow
Common Core in the Differentiated Classroom Natalie Porter-McCuiston Porter-McCuiston_Presentation_Slides
Communicating Number Sense Kelly Edwards Communicating Number Sense Slides
Diving into Word Problems Drew Snodgrass
Fun with Functions, Changes with Common Core John Mahoney Importance of Functions in Common Core Presentation
PARCC Accommodations Danielle Griswold
PARCC Overview Heidi Beeman
PARCC and SmarterBalance in Your Classroom Kylie Alsofrom
Simplifying Expressions, Changes with Common Core John Mahoney
Their Eyes were Watching God, Close Reading & Common Core Kasha Hayes Close Reading Presentation
Working at the Mall Lauren Barros, Kathleen Sheehy, Emily Young

May 30, 2012: How Do We Measure School Quality? A Discussion with Teachers and DC Education Leaders

Featuring: De’Shawn Wright, Deputy Mayor for Education; Cate Swinburn, Chief of Data and Accountability at DC Public Schools; Naomi DeVeaux, Deputy Director, and Rashida Kennedy, School Performance Officer, at Public Charter School Board.

On May 30, 2012, over 70 teachers and education professionals joined a panel of D.C. policy leaders to discuss what measures should be included on a school performance report to best represent school quality. Teachers responded to questions regarding their thoughts on current school performance reports and on what information should be included on future reports. See below for some of the key takeaways from the event.

A majority of teachers don’t think that the components of the current reports accurately reflect the quality of their school. Polling data showed that 54% of teachers disagreed or strongly disagreed when asked this question. When asked to comment on this data, teachers raised concerns about the human element and the accuracy of data on performance reports.

We also asked what information they thought should be included on a school performance report. Indicators they ranked included school safety, teacher retention, school supports (counseling, after school programs, social worker), truancy/in-seat attendance, programs (sports, arts, etc), re-enrollment rates, and staff evaluation results. School safety and teacher retention were the highest rated.

When asked why school safety was so important, one teacher said “in the population I work with, my students are repeatedly suspended and it’s an area we don’t want to talk about but it’s a reality and students are suffering.” The panel was attentive to teachers’ remarks, jotting down proposed ideas, responding to concerns, and following up to get greater clarity on teachers’ suggestions and comments.

When discussing the importance of teacher retention, one teacher said, “I think it would be interesting within retention to tease out the reason that teachers are leaving. Teacher retention is such an important litmus for school culture.” Another teacher remarked, “The district is investing money into teachers but every year when you are starting with a whole new staff, it really slows us down on the quality of education we are providing to students if we are dealing with training new teachers all the times.”

January 31, 2012: Teach Plus Washington, D.C. Launch Celebration with Secretary Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined more than 200 teachers and policymakers on January 31, 2012, to launch Teach Plus D.C. and announce the inaugural class of 25 D.C. Teaching Policy Fellows. The Policy Fellows are highly effective teachers who come from district and public charter schools, and teach a wide variety of subjects and grades. They are committed to spending 18 months working to promote policies that elevate the teaching profession, while continuing to teach.
Teach Plus CEO and founder Celine Coggins kicked off the event by sharing her story of why she created Teach Plus. Next up was Adam Gray, a Boston Teaching Policy Fellow alumnus and Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. Adam talked about how Teach Plus inspired him to remain in the teaching profession, and gave him the opportunity to impact teacher evaluations, win a seat as a union delegate, and become Teacher of the Year. 

Secretary Duncan began his remarks by acknowledging and congratulating the new cohort of Washington, D.C. Teaching Policy Fellows. Duncan said people can do amazing things when they have been taught by dedicated teachers who don’t see them as “these children” but instead as “our children.” Duncan called on teachers to contribute their ideas to policy conversations. If there isn’t a seat at the table, he said, “make a table.” Noting that 62% of young teachers say they are unprepared to do their work, Duncan called for a revamping of teacher preparation. 

Duncan discussed how we need to do a better job of attracting, supporting and retaining talented individuals in the teaching profession. His remarks were followed by Q&A, in which teachers posed questions about sharing ideas between public and private schools, ensuring consistency of changes to instructional practices in response to the Common Core, addressing the needs of special education students, bringing more military veterans into teaching, and preventing teacher burnout and increasing teacher retention. 

Watch a video of the event here.