Thursday, December 31, 2009

Writing and Math Help

People struggle with writing and math. Our teacher candidates at ABCTE are no exception and is one of the reasons why our pass rate is so low. Recently I became aware of Straighterline - an online college course provider that finally brings these courses in at a reasonable cost - and with live online tutoring.

It will be interesting to see if it helps move the needle on our pass rate -

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cyber Monday!

ABCTE - always on the cutting edge of innovation is providing a special Cyber Monday deal of $150 off teacher certification through midnight on Monday - please help us spread the word.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Education Blogs

The time has come that I actually have to admit I have too many blogs. So this is the last post here.

And of course you can still follow Dave Saba on Twitter and Scholarity on Twitter.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Charter School Resources

Having served on the board of a charter school and recently attended the NACSA meeting, it occurred to us that charter schools could use more help. Since we are a non-profit and focused on teaching, we felt like we could provide more resources to charter schools in the area of teacher quality.

So today we are launching with the goal of working more closely with charter schools to ensure the every charter school student has a great teacher. To that end we have built this website so that it covers the various areas that impact teacher quality:
  1. Teacher Recruitment: there is a job posting section so that charter schools can find the talent they need and a teacher resume posting area so that dedicated teachers can find the charter school that fits their skill-set.
  2. Teacher Preparation: for the most part, charter schools can hire the talent they need and don’t have to worry about licensing. But making sure that a person is ready to teach and really knows their subject is an area where ABCTE can help.
  3. Teacher Certification: some states require certification and some parents want their child to be taught by a certified teacher. ABCTE certifies teachers so why not take advantage of a rigorous program to certify your charter school teachers.
  4. Professional Development: our resources, including phonics based reading instruction, classroom management, dealing with parents and subject matter workshops can help you improve your teaching workforce.
  5. Charter Teacher Forum: the more you talk to charter school teachers and administrators the more you realize they really need more ways to share ideas and solutions. Our own ABCTE Teachers have a very strong online community through our forums so we know this charter school forum will get a lot of traffic.

So help us spread the word today so that all the great charter school administrators and teachers know about this new resource, provided for free, from ABCTE to build an even stronger charter school community!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Alternative Teacher Certification is part of the solution

Secretary Arne Duncanhit the one-two punch of teacher preparation this week focusing in on how poorly are teachers are prepared in general and then how they need a greater emphasis on math and science if we are to succeed as a nation.

“By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom”

So very true.

Increased subject matter expertise, more diversity in experience and culture, greater emphasis on recruiting top performers and more field based training - all point to alternative teacher certification like ABCTE as a big part of that solution.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teaching Job Dissatisfaction

A lot of press about teacher satisfaction based upon the Public Agenda teaching job satisfaction survey that said the 40% of teachers are disgruntled. Yet another on many piercing alarms about the sorry state of our education system. That means there are 1.3 million disgruntled people in the United States which means the 22 million students are adversely affected by a teacher who is not happy in their job.

Wow. Can’t understand why we have an education problem in this country.

Only 23% describe themselves as idealist saying that good teachers can lead all students to learn and 37% say they are content – which at first I took to mean complacently average but it turns out they actually enjoy their jobs.

The number of teachers is staggering and the problems are real. We need better principals, we need better working conditions in our schools and we need to redesign the job to leverage the content and the ideal so that we can help the disgruntled move on to other professions. Sounds like a job for a union.

But their too busy fighting charter schools, vouchers, alternative teacher certification, fighting for smaller class sizes so that we can hire more teachers who are not right for the profession and delving into social issues.

Ask any business leader if they can run a great business where people are the product when 40% of them don’t like their chosen profession and you will get a resounding no.

One more data point – one more disaster for students.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Teacher Preparation

I spent a little of last week meeting in Utah on their performance based teacher certification program - the ARL. They are really pleased with the people that become teachers through that program. There are no seat time requirements or minimum hours required. You demonstrate you have the knowledge, through a program like ABCTE, and you can become a teacher. Meanwhile, down in Louisiana, they created an alternative program that requires enough university based credits to be one couse shy of a Master's.

Swift and Able has a great blogpost summarizing the recent arguments on teacher preparation and letting us know that ed schools have not changed in a hundred years.

Even with pressure coming from Secretary Arne Duncan, I don't think they will change now unless they get enough competition from groups like ABCTE, that they realize they have no choice.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Charter School Teachers and Virtual

NACSA held a pretty good conference here in Utah this week. A lot of talk about holding charter schools accountable including how to replicated great charter schools and close the weak. Virtual charters were a large part of the discussion since charter authorizers have to figure out ways to ensure that they can manage the growth in online learning.

That lead to some revelations on the insanity that in US charter laws. The first that obviously affects ABCTE teachers is that in some states there are requirements that all virtual teachers be state certified – sometimes at a higher percentage than in brick and mortar schools. The second is that seat time takes precedence over subject matter mastery for students.

Both are ridiculous. Online learning is supposed to fully leverage great talent regardless of geographic location. If a great physics teacher in Pennsylvania is available to inspire future scientists in Utah – they shouldn’t have to jump through hoops in all 50 states to become a teacher.

The real beauty of online learning is truly differentiated instruction. But in our system, if the student masters algebra in 3 months, they don’t get credit unless they sit in front an algebra course for 180 days.

Our laws need to help technology work to increase learning – not hold it back so that the adults can feel better.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Great Math Teachers

Edtrust always cuts right to the bone when it comes to education problems in this country and for that they should be commended. They take the data and provide no-nonsense analysis and solutions.

If the NAEP scores in math are stagnant, especially for those in high poverty schools, and teaching has the number one impact on student achievement, then we need more great math teachers. Instead we continue to use unqualified math teachers in the schools that need them the most.

The money quote:“In this year’s assessment, eighth-graders assigned to teachers who majored in mathematics in college scored ten points higher than those whose teachers did not major or minor in the subject—the equivalent of one year’s worth of learning.”

So if we can get teachers who know math into classrooms, we can truly advance. Instead we continue to force 40% of our high poverty students to get their math instruction from someone who doesn’t actually know math.

ABCTE has 1,179 math and science experts working through our program and 551 already teaching in 9 states. Imagine what we could do if more states accepted our teachers.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Eduwonk, Flypaper and NACSA

Both Flypaper and Eduwonk pick up the New York Times story on alternative teaching. Been a great week for ABCTE even while I am down with the flu (not the H1N1 variety).

I am heading to NACSA in Salt Lake City next week to talk charter schools - we will be presenting at the conference on teacher certification. 15% of ABCTE teachers teach in charter schools and we are looking to help out even more. In a few weeks we will launch to help out even more with charter school teacher job postings, teacher resume posting, professional development and mentoring for teachers. Pretty exciting stuff!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ABCTE Teachers in the New York Times!

How about this! ABCTE teachers featured in a New York Times article about skilled professionals becoming teachers. Features two of our best - Ron Halverson a former Hewlett-Packard engineer from Idaho teaching special ed and Bill Deloach from Missouri teaching Physics!

Help spread the word - ABCTE Teachers in the New York Times - we have arrived.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Governor Jeb Bush: see you there?

I am speaking at the Excellence in Education conference this week and hope to meet you there! If you have not signed up - don't miss it. A lot of great stuff and great networking.

Excellence in Action 2009
Winning the International Education Arms Race

Last Chance to Join Jeb Bush at Excellence in Action

Join hundreds of passionate advocates and policy experts in Washington, D.C. this week on Thursday, October 8, and Friday, October 9, to discuss strategies to transform education in your state and across America. Here is what awaits you at our second annual summit on education reform:

Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida, shares the stunning turnaround of education in Florida.

Julia Gillard, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia – the first woman in history to hold that position – shares the vision for excellence in education Down Under.

Peje Emilsson, education innovator and entrepreneur from Sweden, tells the revolutionary approach of “the Knowledge School” (Kunskapssklan).

James Tooley, world-renowned scholar, offers insights into his groundbreaking research on private education for the poor in India, China and Africa.

Mary Matalin and James Carville share their experiences in the world of policy and politics, as well as their outlook on the future of education in America.

Other Featured Speakers:

Jeanne Allen, Byron Auguste, Tony Bennett, Michelle D. Bernard, Mitchell Chester, Clayton Christensen, John Chubb, Jon Cohen, Bill Coley, Robert Enlow, Chester E. Finn, Jr., Aimee Rogstad Guidera, Jonathan Hage, Ric Hanushek, Rick Hess, Lance Izumi, Tim Keller, Joel Klein, Matt Ladner, John Legg, Patricia Levesque, Tom Luce, Neal McCluskey, Steve Moore, Vicki Murray, Eric Osberg, Paul Pastorek, Dana Perino, Gary Phillips, Michelle Rhee, Gerard Robinson, Chip Rogers, Ariela Rozman, Dave Saba, Adam Schaeffer, Susan Schaeffler, Eric Smith, Kate Walsh, Will Weatherford, Gene Wilhoit, Joe Williams

A full agenda for Excellence in Action 2009 can be found online at


To learn more about Excellence in Action and receive details on travel and accommodations, please visit

• Summit Registration - $399
• Summit Registration, Government rate - $199
• Single day registration for Thursday, October 8, 2009 - $209
• Single day registration for Friday, October 9, 2009 - $229

Online registration is currently closed, but interested individuals can register onsite on Thursday, October 8, and Friday, October 9, at the Capital Hilton.

If you would like to register onsite, send the Foundation for Excellence in Education an email at:, with the subject “Onsite Registration” and include your contact information and number of guests attending.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Washington State: looking for teacher certification options

We’re seeing a lot of news and chatter coming out of Washington State that all points to the fact that they could really use ABCTE.

This summer, there was the teacher shortage related article in the Tacoma News Tribune, saying that public schools in the state were looking overseas to hire teachers and other staff. We responded with a letter to the editor, explaining that in a time of such high unemployment, school districts could give those jobs to talented experts if there were a more flexible way—like ABCTE—for them to get certified.

Next, we saw residents from Washington state cross over into Idaho for information sessions we held in Coeur d’Alene last month. These are people who want to teach in Idaho now using ABCTE certification and some of them are hoping Washington will eventually accept ABCTE certification in their public schools so that they can use it to teach in their own community, rather than in a neighboring state.

Finally, a writer in Seattle this week included ABCTE in a top ten list of ways to solve the education problem, saying that require candidates to pass our tests would be one way for districts to “stop hiring poorly-educated individuals for teaching positions.” Our tests are not easy—most candidates take 8 to 10 months to prepare and pass our rigorous exams, which cover not only the subject an individual wants to teach but professional teaching knowledge as well. This means that our candidates have proven that they not only know their subject but how to teach it as well, by mastering topics such as pedagogy, assessment and classroom management.

So Washington, what are you waiting for?

School administrators, please let education leaders know that you want ABCTE’s help in filling positions in math, science and other subjects, with experts. We have people with a PhD in physics [ABCTE teacher video] or a degree in chemistry [ABCTE teacher video], for example, who are now teaching these subjects in other states. They are bringing their expertise and real world experience into the classroom—who wouldn’t want their students learning a subject from a talented, tested individual with a degree in that very subject?

Legislators, we’d like to talk with you about proposing a bill that would allow ABCTE certified teachers to teach in your state, so that they don’t have to leave the state or take thousands of dollars in college courses in order to have a classroom of their own. There are talented engineers in your state who are looking for work or who want to shift into a second career—they could be teaching math and science, helping the shape your state’s future.

Parents, students and other residents, please write to your state leaders and let them know that you want ABCTE.

If there’s anything we can do to help, please email us at

Monday, September 28, 2009

Vote for Teacher Scholarship

Thanks to everyone who entered the ABCTE scholarship contest on Twitter. We asked aspiring teachers to tell us why they want to teach--the catch was, they had to do it on Twitter, which limits you to 140 characters. We have narrowed it down to three finalists.


Liberating Learning book review in Heartland's School Reform News

I was so impressed with the Politics of Blocking outlined in Chubb and Moe's book - Liberating Learning that Heartland asked me to do a book review. You can find it here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jay Matthews on Alternative Teacher Certification

Jay Matthews has a quick ABCTE plug in the Washington Post this morning. If you have not been following it, he told the story a few weeks back about a gifted teacher who was frustrated by the bureaucracy involved with becoming a licensed teacher. To be blunt, if Jay had not inquired, this man would still be battling the powers that be.

Today’s post mentions ABCTE as a way for more Maryland teachers to get into teaching. We came very close to applying in Maryland before but they had a 4-6 week internship that was not possible for the mid career professionals that come into our program. So we went to work with other states.

It is a sad part of state teacher certification rules. States try to become more innovative but always get in their own way. They end up creating more rules that make it impossible for anything but the current processes to be able to apply. Case in point is Louisiana which spent the last 16 months trying to craft new rules and this supposedly innovative process requires alternative certification programs to have 32 hours of course work. That is just 2 classes shy of a master’s. Wow – so innovative I can hardly stand it.

So we appreciate education reporters like Jay Matthews ensuring that the public take a good hard look at a process that just doesn’t make sense.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Best School

Last night I was invited by the Education Equality Project to a screening of 2 Million Minutes, The 21st Century Solution and it was a really great night.

First, the film is about The Basis Schools. I have blogged about Basis before and had the honor of touring this school and meeting with the founders. These schools are so amazing and deliver such incredible curriculum that we should have a thousand more of these schools. If we did, we would regain our position amongst the educational leaders of the world – and that is not an exaggeration. Sadly, the don't fit the "foundation" mold for receiving funding (not unlike ABCTE), so they cannot expand. Which is odd, because I thought the point of funding education innovation was to fund groups that don't fit the mold. Irony - pretty ironic sometimes.

It was great so see so many education reform groups out to support this great work. The capstone was pretty great as well. We had the Reverand Al Sharpton and Speaker Newt Gingrich speak after the film. They are traveling the country, at the request of President Obama, raising awareness of how bad the achievement gap really is in this country. It is humorous and moving to see two people so diametrically opposed in opinion come together for such a great cause.

If you have a chance to see the movie and see Sharpton and Gingrich together, it will make you work harder for educational reform in this country.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Let the Debunking Continue: Learning Styles

Our founding president at ABCTE, Kathy Madigan, used to bristle (to put it mildly) at the mention of “learning styles” telling us the research just did not support trying to teach to different learning styles. Now one of my favorite cognitive scientists, Dr. Dan Willingham from UVA is in the Post to discuss the issue and tell us that the research doesn’t support the fact that kids learn in different ways.

Love the money quotes from this article:

“Some lessons click with one child and not with another, but not because of an enduring bias or predisposition in the way the child learns. The lesson clicks or doesn’t because of the knowledge the child brought to the lesson, his interests, or other factors.”

“When you think about it, the theory of learning styles doesn’t really celebrate the differences among children: On the contrary, the point is to categorize kids.”

“Learning styles has become unquestioned dogma among many educators, despite the utter lack of evidence to support it.”

Huh. That never happened in K12 education before has it?? This is perhaps the most difficult part of education reform – tradition and unquestioned dogma always win over actual evidence.

Also a great quote from one of the comments at the end of the article:

“If I present the material three different ways, people assume that the kid got it the third way, instead of getting it because they got the same information three times.”

As comedian Dane Cook says – it’s funny, cause it’s true.

Monday, September 14, 2009

21st Century Skills - debunked yet again

Jay Greene does it again with a great link to Sandra Stotsky's review of the latest in the 21st Century Skills push. From Jay's Blog - -

"Sandra Stotsky has an excellent review in the current issue of The Weekly Standard of Tony Wagner’s book, The Global Achievement Gap.

Here’s the money quote:
It is disingenuous to imply that the development of analytical thinking and effective oral and written communication (goals of the lyceum in ancient Greece) are new to the 21st century. American education schools and their satellite networks of professional development providers heavily promoted such “21st-century skills” as critical thinking, problem solving, and small group work throughout the 20th century.

If our teaching corps hasn’t yet been able to figure out how to translate these buzzwords into effective classroom lessons, what does this tell us about the teaching skills of our very expensive standing army of teacher-educators, either to prepare teachers properly in the first place or to get them up to snuff after they’ve failed in the field?…

Evidence-free rhetoric in support of reducing academic content in the schools, diluting academic standards for K-12, and eliminating large-scale academic testing, has found a receptive audience across the country among those who don’t want any form of real accountability. Unfortunately, the valuable skills misidentified as 21st-century skills cannot be taught and assessed without a strong emphasis on academic substance, standards, and objective assessments–as academic researchers know.

Wagner is the latest in a long line of educational pied pipers leading an uncritical and growing mass of school administrators and teachers into a curricular wilderness. And this latest book is just the current manifestation of the goal driving most of our education schools and professional development providers–how to reduce the academic content of the curriculum while claiming to enhance it–this time in the name of closing the “gap,” or providing worker bees for this century’s employers."

So very true.

Inspired Teaching

Trying to change education when people cling to ancient rituals (like current teacher certification rules) can be discouraging. What we look for to keep us going is adults in the system who aren’t focused on what they want but are truly focused on the. So it was great to sit down with the Washington Post on Sunday morning with a great cup of coffee and enjoy this piece in the opinion section. It is not written by a think tank or someone representing the many opposing groups in education or a researcher who once again found no statistical difference between policy A or policy B. It is written by Nancy Schnog who is an English teacher finding the inspiration to continue teaching even when adults in the system make it so hard for her to keep going.

The two money quotes from the article are:
“We’re inspired and inspiring teachers. Schools don’t let us teach”
“That’s what reaches them. Caring Enough. Caring.”

It baffles the mind that people spend so much time and money looking for the hidden holy grail of teacher preparation and what works in teaching and trying to tie it to some mysterious equations involving complex statistical analysis when all we need to do is really find a way to see if people truly care about students. It is especially annoying that we keep a complex maze of restrictions to limit what groups can certify teachers when we just need to make sure caring people have the right tools to succeed.

As long as people like Nancy Schnog are in the system, we will keep fighting to find more people like her to ensure our future generations can properly communicate with the rest of the world.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mentoring - strike 2

Mentoring and induction are one of the ‘knowns’ in education. You just know it works and the more you give the better teachers will perform and the longer they will stay in the classroom. A given – just like child psychology, the history of teaching, student teaching and other courses that are absolutely required to ensure you get a great teacher.

Except they don’t really seem to help

IES with the second year of a study on extensive mentoring and once again it shows that there is no real difference for student achievement and no impact on retention. Wow.

A while back I wrote about the first year of this study and the flaws of the study were pointed out by Liam Goldrick from The New Teacher Center. He points out that the mentoring was not the pure New Teacher Center program and it was the first year. So the first flaw still applies – but the second, not so much.

To us the headline is that big, formal, costly programs do no better then the informal, helping each other out stuff that is happening in more and more schools. However – there are still too many schools where teachers are still very much on their own.

The conclusion is: no conclusion. Generalizing from one study is not going to help anyone. Each school must look at the culture and if they have a very collaborative approach to teaching, no need for spending huge amounts on mentoring. If it is every man, woman and child for themselves – then get them some formal mentoring.

Unfortunately with the ARRA spending bubble soon to burst, mentoring will be one of the very first casualties

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Top 10 Annoying Travel Issues

Top 10 annoyances while traveling:

  1. Amateur hours: any busy travel time brings the people who last took a plane trip on Pan Am and have no clue what to do totally clogging up the lines
  2. United’s hub in Chicago – worst weather and the most annoying issue ever: the ongoing announcement every 10 minutes telling me what I cant bring through security – I AM ALREADY THROUGH SECURITY YOU MORONS
  3. When I say thank you in a voice obviously ending the call and you ask me if there is anything else they can do for me – yeah – end the damn call you just wasted more of my life
  4. The idiots with humongous bags trying to jam them in the overhead – check the damn bag you cheap bastard
  5. The women who cannot lift their bag into the overhead and look around helpless for someone else to put it up there for them setting women’s equality back another ten years and further delaying the boarding process
  6. People who can’t read the large number 5 on their ticket and get in line with all their bags jamming things up when they are told they cannot get on the plane with the number 1’s
  7. Thanking me for my patience – anyone that knows me knows I have know patience and assuming I am going to give it to morons who don’t know how to run an airline is dead wrong – apologize for the delay and ask me to be patient. Never assume
  8. Why do the maids leave the stupid tub plugged?
  9. The now constant announcements during the flight – really – do we really care or do we want to sleep because the walls of our hotel are paper thin??
  10. Pikes Place in airport Starbucks – why do you think only that serving this 7-11 crap Maxwell house blend is somehow going to gain you market share by appealing to more coffee drinkers? All you do is annoy your base and I, for one am switching to water in protest.

Because obviously the Pikes Piss coffee made me cranky this morning.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Negative negativity

If you have never seen Sherman Dorn’s blog, then you are missing a great perspective on education. I wish that I could write as well as he does and create such well though out ideas. But I guess that is why he is a college professor.

He is also a member of the NEA and he is not pleased with the NEA response to Race to the Top. As I pointed out before, it is a shame that some movement on reforms from the NEA are masked by such negative language.

In any argument, when one side goes so extremely negative, it undermines their point and marginalizes the organization. Sad.

Blog Carnival of Education innovation!!

The new Blog Carnival of Education Innovation is up at ABCTE - - give it a read and find out what is going on in the blogosphere.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Education Equality Project

I am now listed as a signatory on the Education Equality Project. The group is worth a look and is starting to gain traction. The main focus is we need to stop arguing about the 20% of education reform where we rabidly disagree and start working on the 80% of education change where we all do agree. Check them out!

The Future of Teaching

There is a very important article on teaching by Rick Hess in EducationNext this month. He has some outstanding facts and great suggestions on what has to happen in teaching in order to maximize talent and increase student learning.

First the background – he uses one of my favorite stats about our society of career changers: by 30, most people have held 4 different jobs. So assuming that every kid in college going into teaching is going to stay in teaching through retirement is ludicrous.

Career-changers are the problem and the solution. Taking at look at the huge shift in talent in grades 9-12 based on when people entered the teaching profession:

1990: 75% entered by age 25 and 6% entered by age 35
2004: 56% entered by age 25 and 16% entered by age 35

A study in Mississippi found that people entering the profession later stayed longer. Here at ABCTE where the average age of our teachers is 39, we have an 85% retention rate after three years. That is much higher than any other route.

Rick’s conclusion: more alt cert, more specialization and more technology so that we can get the talent we need and fully leverage that talent for better results.

We could not agree more.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Simple math: RTTT Chances > with ABCTE

I have been asked many times in the last few weeks if we are ‘going for’ Race to the Top (RTTT) funds as if I could just jog down to the US DOE and grab a few bags of cash. But people are right to ask about having ABCTE in the mix because the guidelines specifically say that states must have alternative teacher certification programs that are not based in higher education.

Now comes this NCTQ report that specifically recommends that Colorado adopt ABCTE to better their chances of getting access to these funds.

I hope that many more states will take a similarly hard look at their chances for tapping into these funds. This is an easy requirement for them to meet. Just adopt ABCTE for math and science teachers and your state wins, the teachers win and, most important of all, the students win with better math and science instruction.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A shift lost in the shock

Wow – some harsh words for TFA from the NEA. It is amazing that after close to 20 years, they are still going after them. Right now the NEA is doing what any union is supposed to do – raise the specter of job losses and fight for member jobs. They have targeted TFA it is getting ugly.

There is support in the RTTBOC (Race to the Bags o’ Cash) otherwise known as Race to the Top for Alternative Teacher Certification. We are formulating our support during the comment period with some minor tweaks as are many of the other groups focused on improving teachers.

But here is what the NEA had to say by way of a critique:
NEA supports alternative routes to licensure, including high quality alternative certification programs. We know of many programs that do require evidence of excellence in the content area taught and have a carefully designed program of required course work in pedagogy and work with a mentor teacher.

In most alternative certification programs, however, the candidates are not fully certified for two years. And in one particular program, Teach for America, candidates are scheduled to leave teaching just as the two years are completed.

We agree that the Race to the Top programs should be focusing on the most challenging schools. And the research is clear that a highly qualified and stable workforce is necessary for true reforms to take hold. Experience, stability, content knowledge, access to induction and mentoring programs, and preparation for teaching diverse learners (cultural, linguistic and students with unique needs) will be key to the most qualified staff in high priority schools. Plans should be designed to attract and retain the best prepared, fire-tested, career individuals who plan to be there for the duration. Alternative certification candidates should be the last ones assigned to schools targeted for real reforms.

What will get lost in the scuffle with TFA is a pretty huge shift in policy for them. This is a pretty big compromise from NEA. In the past they would not allow anyone into teaching who had not gone through the Ed schools and they had to have had student teaching. This was their fight for years. So this statement is a pretty nice move to find common ground.

But that compromise will get lost in the shock to education reformers for their favorite program.

Friday, August 21, 2009

More Men!

"It's not glamorous, it's not a status position," said Schmitt, 44. "Guys at a young age are chasing after big dreams, big money. But at some point, later in life, they look for a job that's more meaningful." From the "Fewer Male Teachers"

The number of male teachers is declining. In this article from Illinois they point it that it is now down to 22%. I remember a speech by T. Willard Fair, leader of the Miami Urban League on the desperate need for great male role models in our urban schools. This article really highlights the challenges involved with creating a more diverse teaching workforce.

Alternative teacher certification is definitely an answer. Well over 30% of our teachers are male. In order to attract more males, you have to have a focused online preparation program that respects their time, cuts out the fluff and gets them in the classroom at significantly reduced cost. But educators don’t want to hear that.

They want to continue to train all 3.4 million teachers the exact same way. They refuse to understand that maybe, just maybe, doing things differently might actually change the make-up of our teachers which could have such an amazing impact on our schools.

Alas, change comes slowly in education – but it will come - and we will keep fighting so that we can better role models for all students.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Indiana wants me, and we will go back there!

We continue to stay in the news in Indiana as SUPERintendent Tony Bennett pushes for major reforms in education. This is great to see as you have a teacher speaking out in favor of these reforms and the SUPERman himself pushing hard.

Let’s break it down – shall we?
1. Teachers have the greatest impact on students
2. The performance of our education system has become stagnant while all the other school systems of the world improve
3. There are 3.4 million teachers in the US – is there any single training method that works perfectly for 3.4 million people?
4. If our current teacher preparation programs were perfect, number 2 wouldn’t be true
Therefore, bringing in new methods that can address training for different groups of potential teachers is the logical next step

We will continue to push with Tony Bennett to make sure that every student in Indiana has a great teacher.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Scholarity = disruptive innovation

About four months ago I started working with a group of amazing programmers who had spent the past 2 years developing the next generation of education software. They have created technology to provide a tutor-like experience for students. This software checks student work at every step, provides deep and continuous diagnostics then recommends the next set of content and problems to truly master a subject. This is a true ‘game changer’ for any education company and could be the disruptive innovation we need to move our education system forward.

Our goal is to now find a test prep company and a content provider to partner with since our software “bolts” underneath any curriculum. We are now ready to introduce dynamic insight technology to the world with the right partner.

Please check out the website, give us some feedback (yes, I created the website) and let us know if we can help your organization!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Only the strong survive

Note: this is not an ABCTE charter school - I just joined the board of an independent DC charter school 18 months ago to try and help them survive and did all we could.

Last night I went before the Washington, DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) and relinquished the charter to our school. We will not be opening this year because we did not have enough students enroll to make it financially viable. But it goes deeper than that.

Charters schools operate on an incredibly lean budget, always less then district schools, and if there is not outside funding they cannot make it. In our case, we did not succeed in getting enough grants and donations and continued to fall further behind. This drove staffing cuts that then started to hurt the curriculum and student experience.

Even with those cuts we did dramatically improve on AYP this year and we had higher enrollment than we ever have had this summer. But without financial support, we could not make it unless we had another 20 students enroll. We worked hard with the PCSB to thoroughly analyze the school this summer so that we could make the right call. It has been an agonizing few weeks trying to figure out the best possible course of action.

In the end we did what is right for the students and closed the school.

This is the beauty of the charter school system without artificial caps – only the strong will survive giving students the best possible choice for their school.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It is not teaching to the test

Interesting exchange during the New America Alliance conference on education opportunities here in Santa Barbara. There was a panel with Steve Barr from Green Dot, Kim Smith from NewSchools Venture Fund that was moderated by Dr. Angela Valenzuela. It was supposed to be a panel on business response to education issues but Dr. Valenzuela wanted to use the opportunity to rail against testing.

She picked the wrong panel.

Kim Smith was outstanding in her response that testing is the reason we know so much about the achievement gap. Without the testing and standards of NCLB we would not be so focused on the issues of education inequality in this country. I have also said the same things she was saying that our tests and standards need to be fixed – not throw out the tests.

Standards are supposed to be what kids need to know to succeed. Tests are supposed to be aligned to the standards. By definition, teaching to the test should then be teaching what kids need to know to succeed.

Then Steve Barr chimed in and said that parents trust him with their kids - something he takes very seriously. He has to be able to show those parents that their kids are academically advancing so he has to test – he owes it to those parents to demonstrate that their trust was not misplaced. It was really a great exchange on how far we come and that it is time to move away from test or not test - and move forward with finding scalable ways to get results.

Now on to my panel with TFA and Linda Darling-Hammond - - ABCTE playin with the big guys.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Go Virtual

On Friday I am on a panel for the New America Foundation to discuss how we can dramatically improve education in the US. This is a group of Hispanic business leaders who are tired of the poor performance of our education system. They want to come out of this meeting with actual action items that can have a positive impact on students.

Since we are involved in the teacher quality aspect I really want to focus on the fact that we are never going to find 3.5 million highly skilled, highly motivated, outstanding teachers. One stunning fact I just pulled for this event:

• In 1974, 24% of teachers scored in the top percentile on high school tests, in 2000 it was down to 11%

So if we start with the premise that we cannot find all the talent we need and still need to educate every child then we need to somehow find a more efficient way of delivering education. If only there were some sort of machine that every other entity in the world uses to maximize efficiency……………sigh.

In my daughter’s school they used computers to conduct research and do powerpoints. They did not get curriculum that was customized to their needs, they did not work on practice problems and they did not see classes delivered by the best teacher in a given subject.

So my pitch is going to be that we have got to start training more teachers to use digital content (see CA) and we have got start re-thinking our school structure to better utilize the talent we have and get that talent in front of more kids.

Will this meeting change anything? I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Carnival of Education Innovation!!

From the ABCTE blog!! Visit it today!!

Welcome to the first edition of the Carnival of Education Innovation.

Before we get started, here’s a quick summary of what a blog carnival is for those who’ve never heard of one before: It’s basically a collection of links to recent blog posts on a particular subject. People can come browse the links as a sort of one-stop-shop for all that’s happening in education innovation that week—a “best of the week” so to speak where you can come each Tuesday to catch up on what’s happening in the world of education innovation.

One other important thing to note—you play a major role in what appears in each week’s Carnival of Education Innovation. Visit our submission page by 4pm every Monday and submit your suggestions for that week’s carnival. These suggestions can be from your own blog or other education innovation-related blog posts you’ve come across.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Teachers rule

I was pondering what to write about for our Friday blog when I received the email below from on of our scholarship recipients. ABCTE has a Transition to Teaching grant which provides a full scholarship through our program. This is why we fight so hard for alternative teacher certification programs:

"Yes, today was my first day with the students. And yes, I am crazy busy, but I will make time to keep you updated because I would not be here if not for you. It turns out that I am teaching 7th and 8th grade English and Reading. I found out (from a parent) that I was also teaching 8th grade Tuesday night! There seems to be quite a bit of confusion at my school about many things, but I am sure it will all work out eventually. I am just doing what I think should be done until I am given more direction. I have learned quite a bit about frameworks, pacing guides, and more. I have been assigned a mentor – she has been very helpful. I really like her.

My room looks fantastic. My sister-in-law and I painted a mural on the back wall that says, “Language is your transportation … to your dreams, your goals, your future. “ My principal loves it. She used my syllabus at the grade level meeting as an example of what she wants from everyone. She has given me a lot of encouragement.

I fell in love with my students today (already). I am swamped, overwhelmed, confused, but very happy.

It was great to hear from you.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

And the winner is.........the STUDENTS!

In the education world, part of the promise of competition is that it will improve schooling for all kids. But we really have not seen that happen in areas where students have a choice of schools to attend. Most of the blame goes to a system that protects schools from seeing adverse affects from competition.

I chair a board for a DC charter school and I am now seeing first hand the two factors that will ultimately make better schools a reality through competition:

  1. There has to be more seats than students so that schools actually have to fight for every student in order to survive
  2. Parents have to experience shopping for schools long enough to become savvy consumers

It is basic economics that if a resource is scarce, the price goes up. In DC, there are excess seats and not enough students. Wouldn’t be too much of a problem but our reimbursement per student has stayed flat this year and our reimbursement per student for facilities has gone down. Also of note is that many of these schools were built at the peak of building costs in DC. There is no slop in a charter school budget to absorb any reduction in revenue. Ouch.

So the only way to make up for this budget crunch is to make sure you have more students. Basic business sense as more students means more revenue. The result is more schools are pursuing these students and marketing to a lot more of their parents. These aggressive marketing efforts required in these lean times are creating a much more educated consumer out of DC parents - because we have to reach all of them in order to survive.

In order to meet recruitment numbers, schools are offering free after school programs and more laptops. Parents are demanding more to commit to bringing their student to your school.

And the winner is……….the students!!!

It is pretty amazing to see that charter schools are actually building this competition in DC. And because Michelle Rhee is building a better public school system to compete, the students in DC are really going to win over the next few years.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Education Carnival -

The Carnival of Education Innovation

Next Tuesday, August 11, we’re launching a blog carnival—the Carnival of Education Innovation.

For those of you who have never heard of a blog carnival before, it’s basically a collection of blog post summaries on a particular subject – a “best of the week” so to speak. One blogger hosts each edition of the carnival and then other bloggers and blog readers submit blog posts they’d like included in that edition of the carnival. Then the carnival goes live on a certain date (every Tuesday for ours) and people can come browse the links as a sort of one-stop-shop for all that’s happening in education innovation that week.

The Carnival of Education Innovation will include anything having to do with new ideas on moving education forward (ideas to move education backwards will not be accepted). We’re interested in hearing from people on all sides—right, left and center—and from as many different backgrounds and angles as possible. We want to hear from teachers, administrators, parents, students, politicians, writers and anyone interested in blogging about education and how it can be improved. So please help spread the word.

The benefits to you are many:

1. Each week you get a new link to your blog – building your search ability in google and your status on blog rating sites
2. Each week you get more traffic to your blog
3. Overall building of readership as other bloggers come to know what you are doing in the education space
4. If you don’t have a blog THIS IS A PERFECT WAY TO GET IT STARTED

To submit a blog post for consideration for inclusion in the 1st edition of the Carnival of Education innovation, our carnival submission before 4pm next Monday, August 10. This is how it will work every week—please submit by 4pm on Mondays and then check the ABCTE blog every Tuesday for the new edition of the carnival. The carnival will “travel” at times and be hosted by other bloggers. You can check the carnival homepage ( or ABCTE’s blog ( ) to find out who is hosting each week. Also – when the carnival is up – it helps if you say so on your blog with a link.

Let’s make sure that all your Education Innovations get the readership they deserve!

Please email Mike Holden here at ABCTE with any questions

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More Movement

A pretty great day in the world wide webisphere for ABCTE. First, our humble little blog is named to the Top 100 blogs for teachers by Clear View Education. So our sincere thanks for that.

Second, it is great to see a teacher come out in favor of the proposed teacher certification changes in Indiana. A true common-sense editorial to help keep things in perspective which seems to be rare in education these days.

Always a good day – now off to the stakeholders meeting on ARRA over at the USDOE to hear about RTTT funding. And I thought the Navy overused abbreviations and acronyms. Perhaps Congress should create a separate OFEDAB – the Office of Education Abbreviations.

Monday, August 3, 2009

ABCTE - subject matter AND pedagogy

A guest post by ABCTE's Director of Public Relations, Mike Holden:

One of the common misconceptions about the ABCTE program is that our exams focus only on content expertise. I’ll occasionally see a news story or a comment posted online where people are outraged that someone could become a teacher by only passing “a test” showing they are experts in a particular subject.

It is true that in order to earn ABCTE certification a candidate must pass a test in the subject they’d like to teach (i.e. someone who wants to be certified in math must pass our math exam). These subject-area exams by themselves are difficult and should not be quickly dismissed—no one is going to pass without knowing their content and knowing it well.

But there is a second exam that all candidates must pass and it should not be overlooked. This important component to the program is the Professional Teaching Knowledge (PTK) exam, which tests an ABCTE candidate on knowledge related to working with students. Here’s a short summary from the PTK snapshot that goes over what is included on that exam:

“The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence believes that highly skilled teachers should possess a comprehensive body of knowledge that is research-based and promotes student achievement. The Professional Teaching Knowledge exam is designed to assess a new teacher’s knowledge of teaching-related criteria. Such knowledge is typically obtained in undergraduate preparation in areas such as human development, classroom management, instructional design and delivery techniques, assessment, and other professional preparation. This exam also contains a writing component that will evaluate a candidate’s ability to write to audiences they will most likely address as a teacher: parents, colleagues, and/or school administrators. Candidates will be asked to compose their written response without access to any writing aids such as spelling and grammar tools.”

How difficult is the PTK exam? Take it from ABCTE biology teacher Keria Morton, who was already in the classroom and used our program to get certified and keep her job:

“After teaching for three years, I knew I had the content knowledge and teacher know-how to pass the tests. After all, I passed the Praxis test with no preparation and I did not figure the ABCTE tests could be much harder, despite what they told me. But I missed the cutoff [for the PTK exam] by two points. Boy, was I unprepared for just how difficult these tests were. No random person could just come in and pass these tests. I am not even sure a few months of diligent studying could accomplish it. You have to know your material to meet the challenge the ABCTE program offers to you.”

Or, on the content side of things, here's a video of ABCTE math teacher Wanda Champaign-Martin, who underestimated the ABCTE math exam and found out the hard way that the tests are “very comprehensive.”

Finally, here’s ABCTE English teacher Bridgette Blake, who talks about how the county she was teaching in recommended ABCTE to her and that the administrators “knew that this program would definitely prepare [her] for the classroom.”

ABCTE does issue its teaching certification based on tests, but these exams allow people to place-out of college coursework and they are not easy. As we tell potential ABCTE candidates, the tests are “rigorous and comprehensive.” The average candidate takes 8 to 10 month to complete the program and the exams should not be sold short. We want our teachers to show that they know their subject AND how to teach it. Aiming for anything less wouldn’t be good for anyone.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Cartel - watch it

Fridays need to be simplified – especially in the blogosphere. So I just wanted to provide some quick thoughts on The Cartel – the documentary that looks at education in New Jersey but could apply to any state. To me the most powerful point in the movie is the charter school lottery. The artificial caps on the number of charter schools in this country means that in many places you have to put your name into a lottery to see if you get to go to a great school.

In the movie two women get so overwhelmed by the fact that their daughters get in, they have to leave the classroom where the lottery is held and go outside to celebrate. When asked what this means to their daughters they simply say - this has saved her life, she now has a chance at success. The striking contrast is the next shot which shows a girl with tears just streaming down her face because she did not get in.

Imagine your life decided by a lottery. Imagine your safety and success are totally dependent on a random drawing. It is absolutely pathetic.

The second striking thing is the interview with the head of the NJEA teacher’s union who demonstrates a total lack of concern for students. In one case she is asked if it is OK that a teacher with massive anger management issues punched a student in the face and could not be fired. Her response is that of course it is OK as long as there is due process it is a good thing.

Finally, if you have not seen Derrell Bradford speak on how to save students, you have not seen passion in education. He was brilliant and you cannot help but get excited by the opportunity to do anything to save kids from hideous schools when he is done.

It is definitely worth seeing the film and if you are in education reform – you need to show it in your state. Thanks to Dan Lips and Heritage for the screening!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Clear and concise

Great post and first comment over at Eduwonk today on what matters more in education - class size or teacher effectiveness. Then 'Jonathon' hits the nail right on the head summing up the research that is continually ignored by education policy makers:

"Several reputable studies have showed us that: a masters degree in education has little to no benefit to students; beyond five years of experience, teaching experience does not have a strong impact on student achievement; and class size does not nearly have the impact on student achievement as teacher effectiveness"

It is amazing that research can be ignored in favor of what feels good.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No longer "just a test"

For years we have fought the mantra that ABCTE is just a test. Those opposed would just continue to say we offered no pedagogy even thought it was patently false (see here). Now comes the Indy Star with this quote:

"» Nonteachers could become teachers without going through a school of education by taking a curriculum offered by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence."

Finally, people are realizing that we have a curriculum. How huge is that?? And with Indiana's great new state superintendent, this could be a great new state for us.

Thank you!

Today is the day for ABCTE, we are officially on our own. It was about four years ago that I became the President and things were definitely not as rosy. We had lost our grant in Congress and we had to run around working to get our funding back in the spending bill. The press was not kind to us because of some issues with our board and it had been a while since a new state had accepted us.

It takes a dedicated team of people to overcome those issues, cut costs and build success. It took a great board of directors to help brainstorm solutions to our financial problems. It took many friends in many states to put themselves out there for ABCTE. And you have to watch every dollar.

Today is both a celebration and a thank you. Our revenue per candidate is now around $800 and our cost per candidate is down to $1,100. We have over $4.8M in the bank to cover that distance until our volume will create a break-even situation. It took very careful planning and execution to hit this point and I am very proud of where we are.

So to all our states, candidates, Congress, the US DOE, education reform friends, founding board members, staff (and the families of the staff since we travel so much), my sincere appreciation.

Because of you, there are 1,700 classrooms with incredible teachers inspiring our students! See for yourselves!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shortage and Surplus

No surprise here. People have the hardest time wrapping their minds around the following two truths:

1. There is a surplus of teachers
2. There is a shortage of teachers

Both statements are true. There is a surplus of elementary teachers. But there are HUGE shortages of math, science and special education teachers.

Broward County, a Broad Foundation finalist, does what is right for students. They are cutting teaching positions in surplus areas and hiring teachers with math and science expertise.

Which brings us to ABCTE – this is exactly what we do. Train career changers to be math and science teachers AND/OR help elementary teachers become great math and science teachers.

Looking at all teachers versus all teaching positions masks the issue. Both statements are true and if states and districts don’t focus on number 2, it will have a significantly adverse affect on the ability of their students to compete in the global market.

Scalable and Sustainable

One of the big issues with the ARRA funds and the Race to the Top challenge is the supposed short term nature of this incredible boost in funding. This is a one time opportunity with billions of dollars to be used to give our education system a push in the right direction.

The concern from all sides is what will happen when the funds are gone.

On the right, they are deathly afraid that the spending will continue and the results will be mediocre at best. On the left, they are deathly afraid that the opportunity will be squandered with little or nothing to show for it.

So we keep hearing words like sustainable and scale. Yet the funds continue to go to organizations that have neither. Being sustainable and moving to scale are incredibly difficult in any organization but even more challenging in education.

Perhaps that is why we at ABCTE are so proud of the fact that we are achieving both and celebrating this week. We are leaving our federal grant having been great stewards of those funds and running independently from this day forward. Right now, we have a enough cash to cover the shortfall between what we are charging per candidate and our actual costs per candidate.

We can do this for the three years it will take to get to break-even – a true representation of moving to scale. However, it would be great to be able to conserve some of that cash and maybe even charge less if some of the education philanthropists would come to the table with us.

Regardless, we have created a completely scalable organization that has a business model that allows us to be self-sustaining. A rarity in non-profits and almost unheard of in education.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Politics of Blocking

It was pretty nice of iNACOL (the online learning group) to give out copies of Liberating Learning by Terry Moe and John Chubb at the ALEC Conference last week. It is a pretty easy read that I finished on the plane to Mississippi yesterday.

I wish I had read it five years ago.

Moe and Chubb give you a primer on the political strategy of the teacher’s union. They call it the politics of blocking. The key points they make are dead on:
1. Teacher’s unions are very powerful at the state and local level
2. It is much easier to block legislation than it is to pass it
3. If it looks like it might pass – they can push for a delay – request lengthy study for a few years
4. If it starts to pass, you can always load it up with a ton of junk amendments to make the implementation impossible
5. If it does pass, immediately start attacking either through the courts or new legislation the next year

While the politics of blocking is a cute name, it is also the politics of wearing you down. ABCTE really could have used this information when we started as I learned all of this the hard way.

One thing they leave out of the politics of blocking is that we need a politics of moving to counteract. If education reforms wants to ever become a “movement” instead of disparate entities pushing for single agenda, it will need to have a state level group in every state pushing just as hard.

The theory they put forth in the book on how education will ultimately change is that technology, both in innovation and in information, will rule the day. Technology is cool and parents want it. Unions are resisting online schools because of the fear of job losses. But eventually, parents will demand greater technology in the classroom and as the information about efficacy of teaching and schools continues to proliferate, the demands will increase.

They are correct and tangentially agree with Disrupting Class by Christensen et al that technology will save education. They just disagree a little on the method that will make this happen. They also put forth their view of the “education of tomorrowland” – but I will write about that at the other blog.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Online learning: US gets left in the dust again

iNACOL, the International Association for Online Learning held an excellent seminar at ALEC on the future of education. The facts are pretty stunning on the numbers for online learning here and abroad.

It is well known that we are falling behind in K12 because other countries are moving so much faster than we are. What you may not know, and I certainly didn't know, is that this is especially true in online learning where developing nations are using online to rapidly, and dramatically, increase access to education for all their students.

Consider these facts:
• In the US we have gone from 50,000 online students in 2000 to over 1,000,000 in 2008 which sounds pretty good until you read the others
• The European Union put all of the International Baccalaureate courses online to increase access across the 26 million students there
• China has digitize the entire K-12 curriculum and is working on improving internet access. They expect over 100,000,000 new online students in the next 10 years
• India would need to build over 200,000 schools to provide education for all students. Instead they have worked with Educomp to digitize their curriculum and train teachers to provide online learning - this will provide an education to tens of millions of students in the coming years
• Turkey completed building out their online K12 curriculum and have gone from no online students to 15,000,000 online students in just three years

Yet, the NEA got the Wisconsin courts to close the online school in that state. The parents had to fight back and get the legislature to reopen the school. I just started reading Liberating Learning by Moe and Chubb. They talk about how easy it is for the unions to block reforms that might hurt members even if it would help kids. Anyone who has fought to pass education reforms will appreciate this line from the book:
“The American political system is literally designed, therefore, to make blocking – and thus preserving the status quo – far easier than taking positive action.”

Online education is coming in a big way. The current university and K12 systems are not moving fast enough because of resistance from the status quo. But they must change or they will be obsolete in the coming years. More to come on this.

Monday, July 13, 2009

And nothing much happened.....

I am back from vacation, and it was a great one, and I am always eager to find out what has changed in the last week or so. Of course, nothing really changes in education in July so I was not too surprised to find very little flowing in the education news arena.

I guess the two biggest stories is the NEA admitting they are a union and the a smattering of stories that the huge stimulus money in education isn’t really doing much for innovation. Neither all that surprising but both have pretty big implications.

The NEA move is actually refreshing and a continuation of improved candor. They are, and should be, focused on improving the lives of their members. I have continued to see this at the state level and continue to work much more closely with them to resolve any problems they may have with our program. It also seems like more decision makers in education have come to this understanding as well. It makes for much more productive conversations when it motivations are clear.

As for the lost opportunity for the stimulus dollars – again no shock. It will be very easy to poke holes at some issues like this, and it is a pretty big disappointment. I remember when states were required to tell the US DOE what they were doing different on teacher recruitment to get to 100% highly qualified – every single state repackaged what they were currently doing in the “innovation” banner and said that now, their same old tired techniques were going to result in more math and science teachers.

Guess I didn’t miss much at all last week – but it is good to be back and resume the fight so that every child has a great teacher.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Charter School Innovation

The press release below is for a charter school where I serve on the Board of Directors. Our school struggled in the first few years to really get going as most schools do. The freedom that charter schools are given means we could have closed or continued limping along. But we chose the innovative path of partnering with a stronger, more successful school with a similar mission - not unlike the business world. The overall winner in this partnership is the students who now have the chance for a safe, dual immersion education with outstanding caring teachers. The education entrepreneurs who make things like this happen are just amazing to work with. More to come as we move these two schools together -


CentroNía Announces Management Agreement With Bilingual Community Academy

Washington, D.C.—As of July 1, 2009, CentroNía welcomes ABC-Academia Bilingüe de la Comunidad/Bilingual Community Academy Public Charter School under its expanding umbrella of educational programming. This will be the second Charter School CentroNía will manage. Since 2004, CentroNía has managed DC Bilingual Public Charter School. This partnership with ABC expands CentroNía’s bilingual, multicultural educational outreach into the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. As noted by the DC Public Charter School Board, ABC provides DC’s “only Dual Immersion Middle School…” where “The parents are extremely pleased with their school, its teachers and school leaders. They relish the fact that there is on-going communication between parents, teachers and the principal relative to their child’s academic progress.”

CentroNía is a nationally accredited educational organization that provides affordable quality education programs, professional development, and family support services in a bilingual, multicultural environment to more than 1,700 children, youth, and families in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area.

For more information on ABC, please visit us online or contact us by phone (202) 822-6301 or via email Applications are still available for the 2009-2010 school year!

Monday, June 29, 2009

In order to fix education - study Fleetwood Mac

I am attending the National Educational Computing Conference here in DC and went to the keynote address by Malcolm Gladwell last night. I was a fan of his after the Tipping Point. I have become a little less so in recent years – especially after reading Freakonomics and seeing a great second reason given for the reduction in NYC crime. It suddenly dawned on me that maybe anecdotal causal evidence should be suspect.

So there I was armed with a healthy dose of cynicism when Mr. Gladwell launches into a comparison of educating our children and Fleetwood Mac. Since many in the audience were from my generation, it was a good hook. The basic premise is that (he managed a quick plug of his book Outliers) we all think of Fleetwood Mac as a kind of overnight success but it took 10 years, 16 albums, many different musicians to get to that big. Note that the core group of musicians who produced the self titled album and Rumors were an overnight success. So it is a bit of a stretch from the beginning – but it was not too much of a leap.

So Mr. Gladwell states that “studies have shown” that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything and that it is almost pointless to rush that time like the 10 years for Fleetwood Mac. He then points out that on the TIMSS test (the math test where US students are horrible) there is a 120 question psychology survey at the beginning. Heinously long for any survey and most kids don’t like to finish it. Turns out that the kids that answer the most questions on the psych test are also the same kids that perform the best on the math test. His dramatic conclusion is that math isn’t about math aptitude but the patience and ability to slog through lengthy, time consuming work – 10 years just like Fleetwood Mac.

Now – his data can be questioned a bunch of different ways – but I do agree with his premise. Here in the US we have come to the “belief system” that you are either good at math or bad at math. And either way, more practice will not help. We choose to ignore the 10,000 hour rule while other countries that have gone way beyond us choose to give everyone a lot of math practice to master the concepts.

Then I got distracted for a little while because I was outside the hall in a viewing lounge and 15 different people were twittering on his talk – pretty funny to see all those computers up on twitter – half of this little audience were in full tweet.

The second lesson of Fleetwood Mac is that they didn’t really build on their initial success – they built on their failures. A capitalization strategy builds on success and a compensation strategy builds on failures. His theory is that people/groups (like Fleetwood Mac) who build on compensation strategies are much more successful. Thus we should let students fail and they will compensate by being better students. He then made it sound like only people who are dyslexic can make great CEO’s because of their compensation strategies.

Again – I kind of agree with the premise and believe that part of our problem over the last 15 years is raising the most pampered generation in history where no one can fail – everyone gets a trophy for participating and we socially promote kids that can’t read.

The final lesson from Fleetwood Mac is that they tried many different music genres before deciding on the California sound (huge leap here – they decided on that because Stevie Nicks joined the band and that is what she was good at). His conclusion is that student learning is likely a zig zag pattern and not a linear progression but all schools are set up on a linear focus.

Again – the data link is weak but the conclusion is sound. We need more individualized instruction and learning that is not structured on an archaic system but is based on the student’s ability to learn.

So I can agree with Malcolm. In order to fix student learning we need to fully analyze Fleetwood Mac - - but the leap it took to get to that conclusion was pretty lame.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

There will be shrieking

It happens every June here at ABCTE – I get yelled at because people fail their exams and are in danger of losing their jobs. About 40% of our candidates respond to our surveys that they are currently working in education. A full 20% are actually the teacher of record and they came in on an emergency license or some other license. Because of their situation, they now have until June 30th or July 31st to complete their ABCTE program or they cannot teach next year.

The problem is that people wait until the last minute to take their exams. So if they don’t pass, there isn’t a lot of time to get things done. In some cases the automatic response by these teachers is to shriek loudly at all levels of the organization hoping that someone will just miraculously pass them. Obviously this doesn’t work. So we all scramble around to get them some help and then in to re-test.

The automatic response you may have is that these people are procrastinators, at worse lazy, and don’t deserve our help. But I take a different view – they don’t have time during the year to get things done. If you have ever taught, you know that first year teaching is physically and mentally exhausting and at night you still have to tweak those lesson plans, grade papers and run your life outside of school. This doesn't leave much room to study which is why we prefer, and strongly encourage, that all alternatively certified teachers get their work done BEFORE entering the classroom. But that is not always the case with the teacher shortages out there today.

So next year we are going to push a little harder in April to reduce the shriekage in June – but knowing how hectic the end of the school year can be, I won't hold my breath.