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Maren Johnson
Washington State
mother of two boys, high school science teacher, National Board Certified Teacher, education advocate, runner
Recent Activity
What a cool post for the Fourth of July, Tom. Hope you are having a great summer!
Small containers of candy at every table? Tom, that's setting a pretty high bar! :)
That sounds like an interesting teaching configuration, Tom. I've never worked in any co-teaching or learning support teacher configuration, but I've always wondered about alternatives to the one classroom / one teacher approach.
You wrote, "As a teacher, I embrace the standards from an instructional perspective." Agreed. Instructionally, I like the standards so far. However, to implement well, we need support.
I'm with you on this part:"Much must happen between now and 2017-18."
But #CCSS works so well as a hashtag! #Promotingliteracyinmycontentarea just isn't the same.
Love your choice of photo. Diet cola isn't going to cut it anymore--we need the real thing.
This is an interesting aspect of the McCleary ruling--what will the Supreme Court do? One of my legislators briefly addressed this at a legislative town hall meeting earlier this year--an attendee at the meeting asked him if the legislators were going to start getting arrested if they didn't fully fund public schools.
We are definitely starting to see the effects of requiring students to pass a test this year in my school, now that students have multiple tests they must pass to graduate--biology, English, math. If students don't pass a test required for graduation, there are only a few choices, none of which are good: (1)They need to be scheduled into a remediation class (meaning they don't take an elective), (2) They need to come in after school for help, an impossibility, or at least very difficult for many students, or (3) They need to be pulled out of other classes for remedial help on the COE,EOC, or HSPE, meaning they miss time from another class they need to pass.
Hi Tom, I definitely agree with you. Teachers working alone are not going to be at their best in improving student learning!
Hello Todd H., I agree with you that rich collaboration often occurs outside of the contract day. However, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't encourage the conditions for such collaboration to occur inside the contract day as well! Collaboration is important to student learning, and teachers are professionals who should be paid for their time. We should not expect teachers to donate their time if they want to collaborate to improve student learning. Teachers are now essentially required to collaborate because of TPEP evaluation criterion 8: Exhibiting Collaborative and Collegial Practices. If teachers are required to do this, time must be provided. I agree with you when you say "Social media and technology allows teachers to collaborate in a more ongoing and dynamic way. There is not always a need to be sitting in the same classroom." Yes, that is completely true, and I have participated in a number of efforts to incorporate social media into collaboration. There still is no reason that time inside a contract day could not be allowed for social media collaboration. Focused collaboration, even if it occurs on social media, still takes time.
You said, "That's what education is about: building, breaking down, rebuilding... We know kids forget, misconstrue, get confused and sometimes erroneously shuffle new misunderstandings into the places that mastery once resided. It's a process, and it isn't linear." You also said,"Because I am a professional, I understand the process of learning, and I know these kids." That is why we need professional teachers who participate in ongoing professional development--these teachers understand students and understand learning!
The most poignant words of your blog post: "Because, sadly, fourth grade is a little bit too late." The teachers of all grade levels that I know, for the most part, have a "growth mindset" and work to help all students, not giving up. The special education teachers in my area have worked some miracles. However, your comparison of the growth made by "Arthur" and the growth made by other students hits home--even as Arthur grows, he is still further and further behind. Early childhood education is so important.
Ways to improve teacher quality? -Fully fund professional development and collaboration time. The increase to 1080 instructional hours, without accompanying funding, means that school districts are looking at cutting professional development time and even parent conference time in order to meet the instructional hour requirement. Instructional time is important, but so are things like PD and collaboration! -The increased National Board stipend for teachers in high needs schools encourages and helps retain high quality teachers in these schools. -Our state's TPEP evaluation system, with the accompanying instructional frameworks, shows promise as a growth model to help teachers improve. -It has been six years since teachers receive a COLA. For a few of those years, teachers actually received a pay decrease in many districts because of the 1.9% cut and loss of LID days. Static pay and pay decreases are not the way to attract top quality professionals. Finally, fully fund education! Improving our education system goes far beyond examining teacher quality. Public education in Washington state needs to be fully funded, and that needs to happen now.
Here's a link regarding the 1080 hours requirement: Essentially, in 2014-15, the requirement is going to change from a 1000 hour district wide average instructional hours requirement, to requiring at least 1080 hours in grades 7-12 and 1000 hours in grades 1-6. These hours can not include teacher professional development time. The different time requirements across grade levels makes district-wide scheduling difficult, and for districts under the 1080 hours currently, it makes it difficult to add or maintain PLC time. Our local senator recently visited and talked to some local educators--a superintendent said, "the requirement to provide 1,080 hours of yearly instruction, an increase of two weeks over the past level, has caused stress in the scheduling of in-service meetings and conferences." (
Hi Mark. Great post. Thanks for calling out a few of the misstatements regarding the Common Core--yes, these defy reason! You mention that your PLC has been working with these standards for a few years. It is important to realize that in many schools/districts, this is the first year that implementation has started in earnest, and PLC time is limited to time that teachers themselves voluntarily decide to meet after school. This lack of PLC time is potentially going to be exacerbated by the 1080 instructional hour requirement for grades 7-12 next year. You talk about spending money on curriculum, professional development, or some combination of the two--in any case, implementation of the CCSS needs to be fully funded!
Tom, that does sound cool. Nice move by the school board!
Yes, the transition to new assessments is going to take some planning and some time. If current tests on current standards are very high stakes (for students as a graduation requirement, or if they were to be part of teacher evaluation), then it makes the transition to new tests and standards very difficult and abrupt as teachers would be under a lot of pressure to keep focusing on the current standards until the very last moment.
Supporting beginning educators is a bit like supporting early childhood education--small investments now have a large impact later.
Friends, family, colleagues--those who have gone before and those who are still to come--what a wonderful way to recognize all of these with this Thanksgiving post! Thank you.
Mrs. D and MM, Good luck to you as this wait ends--wishing you and the rest of the waiting candidates the best!
Out of everything I did in high school, my experience in FFA is definitely something that has stuck with me. I learned to pursue an activity not for a grade, but because it was something I was interested in. I learned how to schedule my time in order to adequately prepare for competitions. I learned how to work as a member of a team. In this era of college and career readiness, we definitely need to make sure that "career readiness" isn't seen as a lesser option, and that we have robust Career and Technical Ed programs.
Hi Al, Apparently, to actually kill the zombie, you have to get them in the brain stem, which controls basic body functions such as breathing. We've been studying zombies in my class, but I'm still pretty sure you are the zombie expert! :) Yeah, the hardest thing about incorporating new talk moves is definitely sticking to it! Still working on that one. I know what you mean--it is often very effective to figure out what effective instructional practices you are already doing and then be more intentional about those. It's kind of cool that the OMSP talk move ideas are so fundamental to a lot of NGSS work.
I'm sitting here this weekend, with student papers, doing very similar work to you. You write, "We have a list of core works of literature to address, but I won't lose my job (and my kids won't fail some test) if we don't get to all of them." You mention that your peers in math or science might face different pressures. That is the case. If my students don't pass their end of course exam in biology, they won't graduate. That is some pressure. In addition, if the students don't pass, that means that I or some other teacher needs to spend time with these students after school designing and providing remediation in order that the students do pass the biology test. That means that I (or the other teachers) spend our time after school on test prep type activities, instead of working on designing innovative instruction for our current classes, or other activities. This also means the students spend their time after school on test prep instead of other activities. Similar problems exist if the remediation is provided during the school day--instead of taking an elective, students would need to enroll in an additional biology class, and the teacher time would be allocated to that additional biology as opposed to something else. This is one of the problems with high stakes testing--the narrowing of the curriculum. Subjects like biology get emphasized to the detriment of other areas when the state legislature requires a biology end of course exam for graduation. All that said, I truly believe that students learn more when teachers don't concern themselves with coverage! Someone at a PD event once said, "You can't cover everything, so whatever you do teach, teach it well!" I try to tell myself that all the time, and I also try to find those opportunities for fun, excitement, and student engagement in our state science standards! I think we have a strong set of current state science standards, and I think the Next Generation Science Standards show huge promise for our state's science education system.
The focus on teacher voice is definitely a huge strength of CSTP! What you said here is so true, "It means we'll have a teacher base empowered to advocate for students and communities regardless of what the current policy darling is."