FIT Teaching … the book!

FITT_Cover(Warning: shameless self-promotion ahead )

Very excited that the book I’ve co-authored with Doug Fisher (@DFISHERSDSU) and Nancy Frey (@NancyFrey) is available here!

FIT Teaching is a field-tested and experience-honed process that captures the essentials of the best educational environments and empowers teachers to adapt the most effective planning, instructional, and assessment practices to their particular context. We highlight teachers as leaders who work collaboratively to support their students.

The End of Average

Reading The End of Average by Todd Rose, a fascinating book that argues that standards and standardized assessments are radically outdated.

“Contemporary pundits, politicians, and activists continually suggest that our educational system is broken, when in reality the opposite is true. Over the past century, we have perfected our educational system so that it runs like a well-oiled Taylorist machine, squeezing out every possible drop of efficiency in the service of the goal its architecture was originally designed to fulfill: efficiently ranking students in order to assign them to their proper place in society… (p. 56)

How can a society predicated on the conviction that individuals can only be evaluated in reference to the average ever create the conditions for understanding and harnessing individuality? (p. 58)

… but once you free yourself from averagarian thinking, what previously seemed impossible will start to become intuitive, and then obvious.” (p. 72)

Leading in Complex Times

Spent the past three days overlooking Independence Hall in Philadelphia with an incredible group of leaders working on techniques to support change. What an appropriate site—a place where divergent thinkers gathered to imagine the possibility of self-governance.

The weather matched our agendas: on Monday, it snowed heavily, just as we were blanketed with new information and learning. On Tuesday, the snow gave way to torrential rain and high winds, as we wrestled to process techniques and approaches. For our final session today, the sun arrived and bathed our group with a warm glow, in time to send us out to do the important work of organizational and systemic change. 

Collaboration=Amplification

Over the past 6 months, I’ve had the opportunity to co-facilitate a truly great professional learning program. It’s a partnership between the NJEA (teacher’s association) and NJPSA (principal’s association) to offer a series of collaborative opportunities for teachers and administrators to work together to refine evaluation practices. Too often, evaluation systems pit educators against each other: teachers vs principals. When true collaboration occurs, the system is refined, made productive, and ultimately reaches the intended goal: improving instruction for students.

We’re building on the idea shared by Randy Nelson: that collaboration is not just souped-up cooperation, but something altogether different. True collaboration amplifies the abilities of those involved, resulting in a better product than individuals can accomplish alone.

Last Monday, the first cohort came together to consider their current practices, unpack their expectations and belief, and commit to changes both teachers and supervisors can make to improve the system. They will meet again in December to review their work and continue planning. The second cohort is scheduled to meet at the end of October and begin their journey.

collaboration

Based on the success of the first session, additional cohorts will be added for next year. If you are a NJ educator, you’ll want to check this out and consider signing up a team from your district: Collaborating to Strengthen Your Educator Evaluation System.

Leaders vs Managers

Chuck Blakeman writes:

“Managers solve and decide, leaders train others to solve and decide, and then get out of the way…. There are countless great leaders who have learned the basic principle that training others to make decisions allows them to truly lead. They have all learned the simple axiom of leadership we use to advise CEOs: The art of leadership is to know how few decisions the leader needs to make.”

Read the article here.

You can’t just cherry-pick data and choose what is true about the world and what isn’t.

Promoting his new show StarTalk, Neil deGrasse Tyson said:

So what does it mean to complain about what politicians do? We should complain about what the electorate does. I’m an educator, so I see it as one of my duties, especially as a science educator, to alert people of what science is and how it works. About what it means for there to be an objective truth that we would then act upon.

Yes! Read the entire interview.

The tension between teacher evaluation and professional growth

In Evaluating America’s Teachers, W. James Popham writes:

Formative teacher evaluation describes evaluation activities directed toward the improvement of the teacher’s ongoing instruction … summative teacher evaluation refers to the appraisal of a teacher …

… a teacher who needs to improve must honestly identify those personal deficit areas that need improvement. Weaknesses can’t be remedied until they’ve been identified, and who knows better what teachers’ shortcomings are than those teachers themselves? But if the teacher is interacting with an evaluator whose mission, even partially, may be to excise that teacher from the teacher’s job, do you really think most teachers are going to candidly identify their own perceived shortcomings for such an evaluator? Not a chance!

Suggesting a major overhaul to the way we are doing things.