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Lead from the Start: July 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

National Board vs. Value-added Measures: Cage Match

Value-added measures are increasingly the gold standard for research. It is just this "gold" standard that the NBPTS was partially created not to serve. The National Board Certification process largely bases its evaluation on the "art" of teaching with good (sometimes scientific) reasons for teaching a certain way.

It is like researchers and the NBPTS are from two different professional wrestling organizations. They need to have a cage match and figure out who is going to be the Cham-Peen of the Teaching Pro---fession!

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) was established in 1987 with the goal to “define what teachers should know and be able to do”1 as standards and create an assessment to certify teachers based on the highest standards in the nation. Challenges to NBC have concerned the validity and reliability of the NBC assessment process, public funding of NBC assessments, pay increases for teachers who achieve, and lack of correlation between NBC and high student achievement.

The NBC process occupies the worlds of certification, advocacy, and professional development. It is this multiple personality that seems to trouble detractors of the process. The mission of the NBPTS is defined as: “maintaining high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do, providing a national voluntary system certifying teachers who meet these standards, and advocating related education reforms to integrate National Board Certification in American education and to capitalize on the expertise of National Board Certified Teachers.” 2

The first two mission statements consider the assessment or certification aspect of NB while the third mission considers a policy direction. When issues have emerged it has been due to conflict between these three mission goals. For example, some teachers do not believe that standardized tests accurately gauge what they do in the classroom, no matter how accomplished or deficient they are. The National Board’s support of this position, by not including student test scores in the NBC process, could fall under the third mission statement of “capitalizing on the expertise of NBCTs.” However, in the policy world, student test scores, no matter how accurate they are about teacher practice, are the best tool available to measure student learning and should be included in the assessment of NBCTs. Recently, two studies point out strengths and weaknesses of research into the effects of NBC on students, teachers, and communities.

The Center for Teaching Quality recently conducted a TeacherSolutions project that combined NBCT interviews and discussion with a review of NB studies. In the study, Measuring What Matters: The Effects of National Board Certification on Advancing 21st Century Teaching and Learning the group found that NBC is a professional development opportunity in the form of an assessment. CTQ found that research of NBC effectiveness should: focus on using multiple measures of student learning, consider the effects of NBCTs on schools as expert resources, and researchers should consider the board’s vision and mission before making policy recommendations based on findings. 3 Another study found that the NBC process was validated by value-added measures of student achievement.4 Researchers also found that high scoring NB candidates were more effective in terms of student tests than low scoring candidates. Finally, the study found that, “Ineffective teachers are just as likely as effective teachers to apply for national-board certification but the board process does seem to provide some information on teachers’ effectiveness, so people who are certified are a little bit better than the average nonapplicant, and unsuccessful applicants are worse than nonapplicants.” 5 The study recommended that student test scores become part of the NB process.

The NBC process is a valuable tool in education but how and why it is valuable is up for debate. A recent push to offer the certification to principals makes it clear that some see the value of the process. 6 It is hard to see what effect the board’s recent consideration of certification for principals would have. It could damage its credibility with teachers and increase credibility with policymakers. The board’s advocacy component continues to baffle some researchers and hearten some practitioners. If the board weakens its advocacy component in favor of a more scientific assessment process they may lose credibility with teachers. If it does not consider the voices of researchers it will lose credibility with policy makers, the key to the board’s mission to capitalize on NBCTs as a voice in education reform at all levels. Advances in value-added statistical measures have presented the NB with a new challenge, to prove it matters.


1 National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, "History." National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. 26 July, 2008. NBPTS. 28 Jul 2008 .

2 National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, "What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do." National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. 26 July, 2008. NBPTS. 28 Jul 2008 .

3 Center for Teaching Quality, "The Effects of National Board Certification on Advancing 21st Century Teaching and Learning." National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. 26 July, 2008. NBPTS. 28 Jul 2008 .

4 Viadero, Debra. "Weigh Student Gains, NBPTS Urged." Education Week Vol. 27, Issue 4316, July 2008 1, 14-15. 28 Jul 2008 .

5 Viadero, Debra. "Weigh Student Gains, NBPTS Urged." Education Week Vol. 27, Issue 4316, July 2008 1, 14-15. 28 Jul 2008 .

6 Manzo, Kathleen. "Teachers Make Case for National Board." Education Week Vol. 27, Issue 4417, July 2008 1, 14-15. 28 Jul 2008 .

Image from: Battel for Kids

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Olympics 2.0 Pre-K-Style

In my last post I mentioned interacting with Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps in the classroom using Skype. I haven't gotten his address yet, although he does have email, but I did find this great resource for the Olympics. My beautiful wife tipped me off to this awesome website, Voices of the Olympic Games, that is hosting blogs by athletes from all over the world.
This is Margaux Isaksen, a 17-year-old from Arkansas.
Who knew you could and talk to and read about Olympic athletes in a preschool classroom?
I heard a story yesterday about the democratizing affects of the internet. Some think it only helps the loud and aggressive have a voice, I have to disagree. Helping a kid talk to an Olympic athlete could be a powerful experience especially for a 4-year-old who has never heard of the Olympics much less a pentathlete. What a cool way to teach the number five and Latin root words. Penta is five whether it is a shape or a competition.
Riding photo by Gerry Maceda from last week's riding camp.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gas Prices, Virtual Art, and the Olympics

Pat over at Successful Teaching wrote this in her post I found at the Carnival of Education.

"I heard on the news today that local schools are being discouraged from taking field trips because of high gas prices. Teachers will need to see how to bring students on virtual field trips. Maybe they can invite people into their classrooms using Skype. If you can’t go to the art museum, maybe go to specific pictures of the art and have the art curator talk to the class over Skype about the art. Brainstorm with other teachers (in your real world or virtual world) about how to bring the world into the classroom."
How is a 4 year old going to learn about something they have never experienced?

It is really unfortunate that we would think that children's learning is the first thing we should sacrifice instead of any other number of things. Authentic art experiences can't be replaced by "virtual" experiences although the learning can be similar, the difference between one of my paintings online and in person is huge.

There is a perceptual shift when art is viewed online or in a book. Everything becomes 16"x20". Brush strokes become color without intent.
There are many pictures I have seen in books that did not impress me but, when I saw them at MOMA I was blown away.
Ethically, should field trips be the first thing we cut? Maybe something else should be at the front of the line like unnecessary administrative costs, or unused subscriptions to online resources that aren't used in classrooms.

Inviting people in with skype though, as Pat said, is a hugely important idea. Then you can talk to people in places you could NEVER go on a field trip to. I have found that many higher ed folks are very keen to talk with people for a few minutes from the other side of the country. How about learning about the Olympics from a person at the Olympics?

How else are 4 year olds going to connect what is happening half the world away to real experiences?

I wonder what Michael Phelps Skype name is?

photo credit: Pictlux (

Monday, July 14, 2008

Creativity: Lightning or Pearl?

After returning from a week of painting in the mountains of Virginia I have been slowly re-revving my engine for the education world. While fishing for a topic for this weeks blog I found something to bridge the gap between my worlds.

I found an article from the New York Times on the reality of creativity. I am especially interested in creativity these days as it relates to education. Not only in what teachers do but what kids are taught to do. The article described the falsehood of the Eureka Moment. It described the Eureka moment as really a long fought process of small insight, small fact, small step in a process similar to creating a pearl. “The aha moments grow out of hours of thought and study,” said Jim Marggraff inventor of the Leap Pad Fly pen.

I have found this especially true in the classroom. I have no idea how many times I have told my instructional assistant, "I'm going to figure this one out by tomorrow." By putting down a problem and continuing to turn it over like a rock tumbler I have been able to find a solution. But this has happened easier and more frequently as I have gained experience. When I was faced with a student this year who continued to bother other students during our rest time, I came up with an idea at 4:00 a.m. I told E.the next morning "I am going to call your mother after rest time, what I say to her is up to you." This took the choice of the consequence away from him and myself and focused us on the content of our interactions. It really helped but this is just one decision in the hundreds I a make every day as a teacher. The process is also similar to making art. I have been able to make progress each year on my painting retreat because I continue to think about my painting even while I don't have much time to paint.

I especially find this accretion metaphor valuable in thinking about my education writing. I usually start a paper for my doctoral classes and then think about for 2-3 days, generating and revising ideas, talking to others in the field, and trying to communicate it to my wife. This last one is the real turning point. I know that when I can communicate what I am thinking to someone outside of education I am on the right track. But, all of this takes time just as over time, the process has become easier.

This leaves me with some questions:
How does creativity operate in schools? Is it with a Lightning or a Pearl metaphor that we are using? How can schools become a place where creativity is considered a practice as a opposed to a talent?

Image credits:
painting: "Sunday Morning" sold to to fellow Nimrod artist

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Friday, July 04, 2008

its just too big - lets break into pieces

“Where did NCLB come from and why didn’t anyone see it coming?” The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was signed in to law in 2002. The law passed, according to 384 yes to 45 no in the House of Representatives (34 of those nays were Republicans), and in the Senate with 91 yes and 8 nays (6 of which were Republicans). It was a landslide because it was a politically useful bill to representatives and senators. Besides, no one would want to be “The congressman who wanted to leave kids behind”

Now we are left with a law that is too helpful to get rid of, because it causes some states to improve service to sub-groups, calls for challenging state standards, and tests those standards with National Assessment of Educational Progress. And, a law that is so big and has so many unintended consequences that it can not remain intact. Some reasons for changing the law include a weakening of some states’ assessment and accountability systems and a lowering of standards in some states. Finally, it has distracted some policy makers from the actual goal of the law, to help kids, by raising authority issues and power struggles between the U.S. Department of Education and the states.

In our current situation I can’t help but think of the decision to leave education to the states and out of the constitution, as a good decision. By leaving education up to the states we have had a continually improving national school system. A pluralistic approach enabled states to adopt best practices and still empower communities to try to “do” education their own way. This combination of flexible pluralism and adoption of best practices is similar to the process of teaching that has been used in classrooms for hundreds of years.

My idea for the reauthorization if NCLB is to break the law into three parts with 3 staggered reauthorization dates. This is a similar strategy to the one former president of the Virginia Board of Education Kirk Schroder took in the revision of the Virginia Standards of Learning. He helped to set a schedule for the revision of the standards on a rotating 7 year schedule and put the most contentious standards, social studies, at the end of the line for revision.

This is the proposed schedule and Title groupings.

Revision 2012

Revision 2014

Revision 2016

Title II High Quality Teachers and Principals

Title VI Flexibility Accountability

Title I Disadvantaged Students

Title IV 21st Century Schools

Title VIII Impact Aid

Title III English Language Learners

Title V Parent Choice

Title IX General Provisions

Title VII Indian, Native Alaskan, native Hawaiian

Title X Repeals & Amendments

If congress were to reauthorize NCLB, with a revision schedule and some compromises on already proposed revisions, NCLB could become the tool the nation could use to realize NCLB’s goals, every child on track to successful school careers.

There is one consequence of NCLB that I am very happy about. It has put education in the news and on citizen’s minds. An education law of this scope and consequence could likely never be passed again without large input from constituents. Teachers, parents, a lawmakers are now attuned to the consequences of not paying attention to their children’s education policy.

image from:

Happy Fourth

Happy Fourth from one of my education heroes!