What Do You Stand For? Micro Credentials Define What Systems Value

By: Mary Strain Posted: Friday, March 24, 2017 - 11:33am

A superintendent stands at a podium and clicks to the opening slide of the district’s new strategic plan. It reads “(insert your city) Children First” or “(insert your city) Preparing 21st Century Citizens” or “(insert your city) Achieves.” The slides lay out carefully crafted, well researched and thought-out plans to tackle the serious challenges facing school systems. Big Challenges - Complex Solutions.

Above and beyond a universal focus on improved student achievement and accountability, many leaders use strategic plans as a means to articulate approaches to emerging challenges, to set a new path, and meet new needs. Over the past several years systems have targeted improving achievement for young men of color, implementing computer science programs, reducing incidents of bullying, improving fiscal stability, and supporting teacher leadership. These goals set leaders apart - define their expertise, their vision and their values. But these goals require support, collaboration and the engagement of whole communities.

How can system leaders know constituents understand their roles - individually and collectively in contributing to these systemic goals and vision? How can individuals working in systems develop their own agency in support of solving...

The potentially ruinous consequences of diverting money for low income students into vouchers

By: Lynette Guastaferro Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 5:42pm
A rushed and haphazard plan is not how New York created quality alternatives
by Lynette Guastaferro

Teaching Matters' Lynette Guastaferro is author of an op-ed in the Hechinger Report that warns against shifting Title I funds to vouchers and starving public schools.

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While President Trump was still a candidate, he vowed that his administration would allocate $20 billion to support vouchers for school choice, a likely source being Title 1 funds that currently go to about two-thirds of America’s public schools.

If we have learned anything over the past several weeks, it’s that the administration has been checking off promises at a breakneck pace. Of course, such a dramatic change would require the approval of Congress, which answers to its own constituencies. But if past is prologue, this will be a top priority for newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.


Micro-Credentials Support Targeted Professional Learning

By: Lynette Guastaferro Posted: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 5:09pm

Maybe "micro" is a bit of a misnomer in the work of "micro-credentialing." Teaching Matters has spent the better part of two years developing a system of coaching and assessment that's all about determining just what skills are most essential for teacher leaders. And that's no small thing.

The reason that we use the words "micro-credentialing" or "digital badging" is because we are zooming in on specific knowledge and well-defined skills that can be shared and demonstrated in a reasonable period of time. And it's not just us. Our work is part of a new movement in competency-based education and micro-credentialing. For our part of this shift, it's about what one needs to know and do in order to be a great teacher leader, and it's about making professional development most effective.

Talking about the virtues of micro-credentials for professional development, Superintendent Mike Nagler said it well: Teachers need to be constantly updating their pedagogical practices and skills. Often this is smaller snippets of learning - not a whole course. Micro-credentials really focus on the right "bite-size" of skills that people need. They're very efficient.

That's an important endorsement at a time when professional development has come under attack for not...

Spotlighting Innovators of a New Teacher-Led Profession

By: Lynette Guastaferro Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2016 - 10:16am

The votes are in, and P.S. 9, a Manhattan elementary school with a determined block of teachers who pressed for the chance to work collaboratively, has won the $25,000 Rohatyn Prize. Congratulations to P.S. 9 and all our five finalists, all of whom are pioneering teacher-led school improvement.

Teaching Matters has extolled the benefits of teacher-led learning for years. We’ve revamped our professional development models to emphasize teacher leadership and sustainability. We are partners in the national TeachStrong and Teach to Lead movements to modernize and elevate the teaching profession. We spearheaded the first New York Teacher Leadership Summit powered by Teach to Lead to seed teacher-led initiatives across NY State. And that’s why this year’s crop of applicants to the ...

Achieving Lift-Off: How to Quickly Elevate Reading Teachers

By: Lynette Guastaferro Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2016 - 1:26pm

It's been said before: Teaching reading IS rocket science - or at least similarly difficult. We understand. Learning to read is both complex and crucial. So is teaching students how. Early Reading Matters is our initiative to transform reading instruction in high needs elementary schools. CNN’s Kelly Wallace recently spent the day visiting P.S. 94 in the Bronx to learn more about how we teach teachers to teach reading. In her story she describes what she found. One takeaway: even the most novice teacher can dramatically and quickly improve practice.

Explains Diane Daprocida, principal of P.S. 94, "We have a very young teaching staff, who came out of college in the last six years without the pedagogy skills to teach reading." Now, she continues, "if you look at our 3rd grade results, they're the highest they've ever been mid-year. That doesn't happen magically. Second grade came into 3rd grade strong."

Of course, even experienced teachers can need support, especially in the shifting terrain of the last several years. The Common Core has added new demands, and student populations have many and increasing needs. Teachers must...

More of the Story on "Testing Doesn’t Have to Be a Dirty Word"

By: Lynette Guastaferro Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - 4:05pm

Maybe you heard it on NPR - teachers and students alike singing the praises of assessment! WNYC visited one of our partner schools, West Side Collaborative, to learn what it looks like when assessment is real time, precise, and really useful to both teachers and students.

New tools are helping transform the culture of assessment. Collecting and sharing data on how their community is mastering learning standards (rather than just scoring on tests) changes both kids’ and teachers’ thinking about the purpose of assessment. (Families are easily included, too.)

Through innovative technology, results are captured from all sorts of formal and informal assessments at the many stages of learning. That means that in the middle of a class, a teacher might quickly see that some of his students just aren’t getting it - and fix his instruction to tackle the problem. And as importantly, the kids themselves feel empowered by being able to track and improve their own performance.

The enthusiasm is coupled with positive results. At Global Technology Preparatory, Principal David Baiz cites a “...

Collaboration, not conflict, in education

By: Sharon Rubinstein Posted: Tuesday, February 23, 2016 - 3:57pm

Teaching Matters' Lynette Guastaferro is co-author, with a Baltimore principal, of an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun that describes what's needed to elevate the teaching profession - and benefit students.

Collaboration, not conflict, in education
by Lynette Guastaferro, Kirk Sykes

After years of bitter disagreements from all sides in the education arena, a new approach is evolving. This one calls for harmony among the many voices trying to improve things for children. And though it's impossible to paper over real differences, there is a set of common goals that's resonating for groups as diverse as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Teach for America (TFA).

With over 50 partner organizations (including Teaching Matters, which works to develop and retain great teachers in urban school districts), the new coalition, known as TeachStrong, offers a nine-point prescription. The platform focuses on teacher selection and preparation, ongoing teacher support with new ways of structuring teachers' environments and teacher career growth opportunities. Each component recognizes the need to modernize and elevate the teaching profession in order to best serve students who are at risk of leaving K-12 education unprepared to meet college or adult demands.


Teacher Leadership in the Spotlight

By: Lynette Guastaferro Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 12:28pm

This is the hour of "teacher leadership." It's one we don't want to waste.

Nationwide, the idea is gaining traction as a school improvement strategy. It's being endorsed by unions, ed reformers, front-line educators, researchers, and policymakers alike.

While we have this powerful consensus, we all must thoughtfully shepherd meaningful opportunities for teachers to take on leadership roles that support their colleagues and improve their schools. That's why we've devoted our most recent issue of our magazine, Points of Practice, to the topic.

There is a push at city, state and federal policy levels to hone role definitions and clarify the conditions necessary for teacher leaders to optimally impact student learning, and we are fully on board with this process.

Teacher leadership has the potential to be a different type of school improvement strategy. Rather than top-down change led by policy makers, teacher leadership is a practitioner-led innovation. We simply can't impose or execute reforms on or for teachers—they must be committed co-creators.


Who is Formative Assessment Really For?

By: Sharon Rubinstein Posted: Friday, May 22, 2015 - 9:33am

By Nick Siewert

My first post on the Teaching Matters Mastery Connect pilot this year was cheekily entitled, “It's 9 AM, do you know where your students are?”

In case you missed the allusion, it paraphrases the long-running slogan of New York City's WNYW TV station, frequently recited by celebrities at the opening of the 10pm news broadcast. On its face, it served to remind parents that they needed to keep track of their children. Subliminally, it tapped into society’s broader fear that perhaps our kids were up to no good. It seems not a huge leap to equate those concerns with the concern of teachers wondering about the relative progress of their students. We’re all a little freaked out.

But perhaps we should consider rephrasing the question. Try this on: It's 10 PM, do your children know where they are? With the advent of the Common Core standards and their promise to steer students towards college and career readiness, much lip service has been paid to developing autonomous, self-directed learners: students who know where they are, know where they need to go, and know the steps they need to take to get there. Descriptions of associated student behaviors...

Teaching Matters Celebrates 20 Years, and Honors Our Founder

By: Sharon Rubinstein Posted: Friday, May 8, 2015 - 1:03pm

Teaching Matters put on its party shoes and celebrated its 20th anniversary last night with friends and supporters. We honored founder and Chairman Emerita, Elizabeth Rohatyn, a champion of public education and the woman who made it all possible. Tweed Courthouse, headquarters of New York City’s Department of Education, was the lovely site for the festivities.

Chancellor Carmen Fariña paid tribute to Teaching Matters’ long-standing role in supporting teachers throughout New York City, and her personal experience when a superintendent with Teaching Matters’ exceptional quality support. “We know our partnership will continue.”

Chairman of the Board Olga Votis kicked off the evening with a warm welcome to all and a special tribute to Mrs. Rohatyn, whose daughter Nina Griscom spoke on behalf of her mother. Lynette Guastaferro, our Executive Director, gave heartfelt thanks to Mrs. Rohatyn for her personal mentorship, and visionary leadership.

Lynette continued with a reflection about her own years teaching in Baltimore, and both the daunting and gratifying responsibility for students’ education.

She laid out some numbers, too. In our work to increase teacher effectiveness and help close the achievement gap, we’ve touched the lives of over 500,...