Create the Right Community Conditions

By: Sharon Rubinstein Posted: Thursday, January 8, 2015 - 5:12pm

Boosting teacher and principal performance in high-needs schools is a solution to the achievement gap that’s hard to fault. But many urge a broader view and more resources to attack the stresses that contribute to unequal education, and not incidentally make it harder to recruit and retain educators.

There are at least two approaches. One is to make sure that high-needs schools and their high-needs students get more of their needs met with a wraparound array of services. Or one can break up the kind of concentrated poverty that makes it so much harder to educate in a building.

Both methods are being tried.

New funding for community schools in New York City will tackle a host of issues closely associated with poverty. Fifty-two million dollars has been allocated to serve 45 schools at the outset, with the program launching early this year. At each location, there will be a resource coordinator. Support will span a variety of services such as early childhood education, health care, free meals, and truancy prevention. Mayor De Blasio has also designated $150 million over a three-year period for “...

Empower Principals and Their Teams

By: Sharon Rubinstein Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2014 - 11:43am

by Leonard Sparks and Sharon Rubinstein

Michael Wiltshire arrived at a school with a 63 percent graduation rate, a reputation for violence, and a cloud of apathy hanging over students and teachers when he became principal of Medgar Evers College Preparatory School nearly 15 years ago.

One of his first reforms: making daily visits to a nearby store and rounding up kids skipping school. Initially some resisted, but Wiltshire persisted. That persistence eventually convinced students that he cared, and they also began caring.

“We first have to have that vision, and that vision comes from our leader,” said Delroy Burnett, assistant principal for science at Medgar Evers Prep. “The principal of the school has to set the stage and say this is what we want. This is what we expect.” Teaching matters, but so does leadership.

There’s plenty of agreement that a principal’s role is absolutely vital. In fact, greater principal turnover has been correlated to lower student graduation rates. And Wiltshire’s accomplishments have been recognized - while he remains the head of Medgar Evers, he was...

Are Teachers Incentivized to Succeed?

By: Sharon Rubinstein Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - 5:14pm

There’s a debate about how much money matters in attracting and retaining the best teachers and administrators. The federal government has stepped in with a variety of programs, including the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), to help draw teachers to the most struggling schools and communities. New York City’s new teacher contract allots more money for teachers going to hard-to-staff schools - $5,000 - and for those earning special designations (and effective or highly effective ratings) of model teacher, teacher ambassador ($7,500) or master teacher ($20,000).

Teaching children from wealthy backgrounds in a posh setting is greatly different from wading into a school dominated by children who live in concentrated poverty. Marguerite Roza, head of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University, thinks it’s a profound injustice that school districts often pay teachers more at prospering schools than the struggling ones within their own borders - let alone the disparities that exist between poorer and more affluent districts. She and Paul Hill have explained how averaging teacher salaries within districts disguises the often huge discrepancies between the most and least...

Support Teachers with What They Need to Grow

By: Sharon Rubinstein Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 10:24am

by Sharon Rubinstein and Leonard Sparks

The old English proverb, “In unity there is strength,” is fully applicable to the task of great teaching.

Collaboration, community, and collective effort promote growth in a school’s faculty, and achievement by its students. But such a supportive structure that fuels teacher excellence is built upon experience, continuity, and peer leadership.

Both the need and challenge are particularly great in disadvantaged school districts where teaching is often most difficult, turnover is high, and students are more likely to be taught by novice teachers or teachers considered ineffective.

In New York City, overall teacher turnover has been declining, but teachers in high-poverty schools transfer out “in large numbers,” according to a report released in May by the city’s Independent Budget Office.

“That is absolutely a central issue to closing the achievement gap,” said Daria Hall, director of K-12 policy development for Education Trust. “We’re not going to close the achievement gap … until we get serious about ensuring that those students who need the strongest teachers...

Educating New Teachers More Effectively

By: Sharon Rubinstein Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 2:53pm

This week, The U.S. Department of Education mandated that by June, the states must submit new plans to assure that the neediest students aren’t saddled with the least experienced or credentialed teachers. Below, read one of our solutions to remedy the problem, and check the link to the right to get the full picture (and four other ideas) in our online magazine, Points of Practice.

According to their instructor, here’s the good news for two aspiring teachers and top-notch students at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County: They’ve mastered their content area – mathematics – and can teach at a “higher level” while...

Challenging an Unacceptable Class Divide

By: Lynette Guastaferro Posted: Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 12:00pm

The following blog post is drawn from the newest issue of our online magazine, Points of Practice. Look for more excerpts in the next few weeks, and if you like it, subscribe!

How big a challenge is it to deliver great teaching to every public school student – so that family income and geography don’t determine scholastic results? A very big one, and at the heart of our practice.

Teaching Matters is in the trenches trying to combat the impact of zip codes on opportunity. Our mission is “to develop and retain great teachers, and measurably increase their ability to give students in urban public schools an excellent education.” Doing so means understanding social problems, not just educational ones.

We see the difficulties so many children bring with them to school, and we help their teachers overcome what can be monumental odds.

We’ve just published our second issue of our online magazine, Points of Practice, in which we lay out the educational equity problem and some possible solutions. Nationwide, teaching excellence is distributed quite unevenly. Despite a long-standing mandate in the No Child Left Behind Act...

Adding It Up

By: Lynette Guastaferro Posted: Monday, September 15, 2014 - 5:05pm

By Meredith Somsel

From veterans to first year educators, to say last year was challenging was an understatement. The introduction of new math curricula left many teachers scrambling to gain an understanding of the new materials available to them, learn new strategies, and learn new content all while writing and implementing lessons, getting to know their students and collaborating with their teams. In short, it was the perfect storm. As the school year progressed, and the polar vortex descended on the New York area, teachers were able to ascertain what was available to them, but their available time, and the temperature outside, was frozen due to the daily requirements that stem from being in the classroom.

As a late arriving spring turned into a surprisingly mild summer, the school year drew to a close. Teachers spent their summers attending additional professional development opportunities, teaching summer school, and in some cases, managed to squeeze in some time to relax and rejuvenate. At Teaching Matters, as we looked ahead to the 2014-15 school year, we knew that we couldn’t impact the weather, but we could impact the amount of time teachers spent analyzing Common Core-aligned resources so they could hit the ground running in...

Teach Your Children (well)*

By: Lynette Guastaferro Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 8:27am

Just the other day I sat with a principal whose school is supported by Teaching Matters. We were talking about 1st graders whose promotion was in doubt. Imagine that - so young, and already losing ground. What did these children have in common? None of them had a pre-K education.

If we are serious about the heavy lift of Common Core and the higher expectations we are placing on students, let's tackle what else is necessary: doing our best to make sure children are ready to learn when they arrive at school.

And let's do it right. Let's not pay lip service to pre-K education, but short our children on quality. The research shows that quality matters to results. Of course.

As we seek to level the playing field by introducing pre-K for all young children, let's make sure that we deploy both adequate resources and the right leadership. Happily, Mayor de Blasio has made a promising appointment to this post. And we appreciate his strenuous efforts to assure that the funding for pre-K is adequate and sustained. We don't want to move in fits and starts.

People care about 3 and 4 year olds - and they care about launching our youngest New Yorkers in the right way. In fact, from the President, to the Governor, to the Mayor, the...

Governor Cuomo's State of the State

By: Lynette Guastaferro Posted: Friday, January 10, 2014 - 12:45pm

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo gave his annual State of the State address. In it, he included an array of education initiatives. We've included an excerpt from his press release below the statement we issued in response.

Statement of Lynette Guastaferro, Executive Director
Teaching Matters, Inc.

New York, NY - January 8, 2014

We applaud the education priorities outlined by Governor Cuomo in his State of the State address. We are particularly heartened by the Teacher Excellence Fund, which would offer up to $20,000 additional money per year to eligible highly effective teachers. Teachers are the single most important school-related factor in the quality of a student's education, and this reward is a positive step toward retaining the best educators. We are also in full support of the Governor's early education initiatives.

Transforming New York's Schools

Meeting the education needs of New York's students gives them a path to prosperity and the tools to become productive members of society, while also providing a more secure economic future for the state. The Governor proposed a series of actions that build on the progress and investments from the last three years to ensure all of New...

On the Brink of the Common Core Era, Principals Leading

By: Lynette Guastaferro Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 11:46am

The following blog post, co-authored by Lynette Guastaferro and Pedro Noguera, was originally published by the Huffington Post on 9-9-13

The new Common Core era has generated great insecurity, largely because some states, such as New York, implemented the new assessments before rolling out new curricula designed to match the rigorous exams. Despite its great promise, the Common Core is unlikely to be the "game changer" our policymakers hope it will be unless sensitive and skillful leadership is provided to shepherd the profound changes necessary. Undoubtedly, that leadership will have to come from principals who must take the lead in helping teachers and students meet the challenge of elevated expectations.

The challenge for principals goes far beyond managing building and personnel effectively. They will have to prioritize providing genuine instructional leadership and creating systems that make it possible for teachers to be successful. That may mean creatively delegating some operations. There is no single recipe for how to do all that is vital, but there are key ingredients: