How Does Our Garden Grow?

When I was a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to teach a kindergarten class. I spent days designing the lesson, and I will never forget the look of excitement in the eyes of the students as they participated in the lesson I created. A seed was planted; I wanted to become a teacher!

All teachers are responsible for inspiring students to contemplate and investigate career pathways as well as promoting college and career readiness. Teaching is one of those careers. The U.S. Department of Education reports teacher shortages throughout the nation in all geographical areas, subject areas, and grade levels (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, 2015).

While grow-your-own strategies have included initiatives, such as alternative licensure programs, formal efforts have not included the classroom teacher in the recruitment of future teachers. Teachers of all grade levels have the expertise to grow-their-own through purposeful efforts.

  1. Identify potential educators and plant the idea in their hearts and minds. Ask if they have ever considered becoming a teacher, then follow the question with specific, descriptive feedback on why they think they could be a successful educator. Encourage capable students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Include parents and guardians in the mission. During formal and informal conferences, share why their child would be a successful educator. Collective efforts produce an abundant harvest.
  2. Use “yes . . . but” in conversations to emphasize the positive aspects of the profession. Make it a practice to follow a voice of concern with a statement on the joys of teaching. Be mindful of how encouraging messages about teaching can influence a student who is entertaining the thought of teaching. Consider how your reactions to the challenges of teaching enhance and contribute to the grow-our-own approach. All careers have challenges, yet students in the public schools typically do not regularly interact with other career professionals nor do they hear about their difficult times. Teachers are part of a student’s daily life. Consequently, explicit positive messages are important during difficult times.
  3. Share your story. Reveal the motivation behind becoming a teacher whenever the opportunity arises. Describe the events and special people who inspired the decision. Telling one’s own story inspires prospective educators and serves as a reminder as to why you entered the field. Reconnecting to your vision of teaching revitalizes your spirit and strengthens your mission of inspiring others to consider teaching. Share the chapters of your teaching life so that your students might begin writing their own.
  4. Create opportunities to explore teaching. Ask students to serve a mini apprenticeship as a teacher’s helper for a day or a week. During this time, reveal the positive aspects of a career in teaching. At the end of the apprenticeship, recognize the student with a certificate, a tangible reminder of the special event. This guided practice enables students to discover the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference in the lives of others. Students also can be assigned to work with teachers in the younger grades to build confidence in working with others while experiencing education from the teacher’s side of the desk. Student organizations, such as Educator Rising, provide the framework and support to encourage a career in education. Furthermore, Educator Rising promotes interest by allowing high school students to “test-drive” teaching and empowering teachers to act as ambassadors for teaching (Brown, 2016). These ongoing opportunities for practice exposes students to the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference.
  5. Think like a marketing agent and visually promote your profession. Positive messages in the classroom can inspire future educators. Posters that celebrate teaching and the power of learning can motivate students to consider a career as an educator. Highlight successful teachers on a bulletin board or in published news articles. Have students create works about teachers who have influenced them.
  6. Be a role model. Attract students to teaching by simply doing what you love to do: teach. Be the professional your students want to emulate. Welcome your students at the door with a smile. Facial expressions, attitude, and social interaction become your runway moves. Positive actions and reactions serve as fertilizer that encourage students to perceive education as a desirable calling.

The opportunity to teach during my senior year in high school planted the seed for a fruitful career in education. Teachers have the capacity to grow-our-own. Encouraging students to consider a teaching career begins in kindergarten and continues through 12th grade. Teachers hold the solution to cultivate and mentor the next harvest of teachers to make our garden grow.

Dr. Kathleen Wagner is an Assistant Professor of Educational Studies and Secondary Education at Eastern New Mexico University. She teaches courses on curriculum, instruction, and assessment, supervises teacher candidates during student teaching, and serves as the Assessment Coordinator of the College of Education and Technology. She is also the counselor of the Omicron Upsilon chapter at ENMU.

 

Research from The Educational Forum: Improving High School–College Alignment

Today’s blogger is Jiffy Lansing, Senior Researcher at Chapin Hall, University of Chicago. She writes here to describe research recently published in an article (coauthored by Caitlin Ahearn, James E. Rosenbaum, Christine Mokher, and Lou Jacobson) in The Educational Forum.

As policy focus on providing financial supports for low-income students to gain access to college has grown, the college graduation gap has also increased. One of the factors related to low college graduation rates is that many students spend significant time and money on remedial courses. These courses do not bear college credit and are often misunderstood by students as “college” courses. Students end up in remedial courses as a result of their scores on a college placement test, a test that many students were not expecting to take and did not study for. Rather than blaming students for being unprepared or simply providing information to students about the consequences of their placement test scores on their college course offerings, a sociological perspective on this issue highlights potential systemic adaptations that could promote college success. An approach that addresses the current loose coupling and poor alignment between high school and college systems could be an effective way to promote college success for all students. However, such system-level reforms are challenging in the decentralized context of education in the United States.

My colleagues and I explored how teachers strive to implement Florida’s statewide initiative to attempt to align high school and college performance standards. Our study highlights important implementation considerations and the efforts teachers make despite short notice and minimal additional resources. It also underscores the importance of including career education in the alignment of secondary and postsecondary institutions.

The state of Florida recently implemented a statewide initiative that aims to better align high school and college expectations. Florida is one of only seven states with a single common placement test: the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT). Florida’s reform, the Florida College and Career Readiness Initiative (FCCRI), was designed to take advantage of the common placement test to improve students’ preparation for college. The reform targeted students who were close to achieving college readiness standards. Starting in 2012, Florida mandated the PERT college test for all high school juniors who scored in the middle range of the high school exit exam (FCAT) as sophomores, and required seniors to take College Readiness and Success (CRS) courses in 12th grade if they tested below college-ready on PERT. These courses were offered in math and English, and intended to help students pass the PERT when they enroll in college. Ultimately, the FCCRI sought to create alignment by testing students early and repairing seniors’ achievement gaps.

Our paper reports findings from a study of teacher responses to Florida’s alignment reform. We examine:

  • Whether CRS teachers felt the reform succeeded at meeting its goals
  • Teachers’ views of the reform’s shortcomings
  • Actions they took to make it work
  • What more was required
  • Their views of what improved and what got worse in the second year.

Analyses are based on a survey of teachers conducted in the spring of 2013 and again in the spring of 2014, the first and second years of the mandatory CRS offerings.

We expected teachers might express skepticism about the program because it offered little advance notice, vague standards, and few resources. Instead, teachers embraced the reform’s goals and worked to implement them despite impediments. Most teachers evaluated the reform as moderately to extremely effective. English teachers reported more difficulty, rated effectiveness lower, and made more efforts to use outside resources than math teachers. Both math and English teachers equally felt that heterogeneous students and lack of PERT information, textbook resources, and diagnostic tools impeded the initiative.

Apart from improved diagnostic tools, the next most common impediments reported were a lack of planning time or curricular supports. In Year 2, teachers reported conflicting perceptions of whether the initiative improved since Year 1. Importantly, besides the discrepancies noted in the first year, teachers reported those discrepancies increased further in the second year, with improvements most often reported in engagement for college-bound students.

At the same time, teachers were least likely (19%) to report improvements for engagement of non-college-bound students. This, along with the increased change for academic heterogeneity problems, indicates that teachers continued to struggle with student differences in their classrooms, especially for non-college-bound students. When the reform is working with college-bound students of similar academic achievement, teachers have fewer difficulties. However, when the reform involves many non-college-bound students or heterogeneous achievement levels, teachers face serious impediments.

This study shows that the sociological approach to alignment can be done, and teachers perceived it to be effective with college-bound students. Even the reform’s failure to provide resources did not discourage teachers’ efforts. Teachers found supportive resources, although they identified additional types of support that would further improve its effectiveness. However, student heterogeneity remained an issue. College-bound students’ engagement increased more than it decreased, while the opposite was true for non-college-bound students. Alignment reform made the preexisting inequality of these two groups even more pronounced.

Despite its name, the Florida College and Career Readiness Initiative assumes that all students are motivated by a reform directed at college-bound goals. Teachers report that this is not the case, and their non-college bound students did not engage. The program magnifies the discrepant needs of these two groups of students. Future initiatives might benefit from including career-related features to reach students who, in their junior and senior years of high school, do not see themselves attending college.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Jiffy Lansing and colleagues’ article free with the education community through September 30, 2017. Read the full article here.

Language + Communication = Advancement

Hello fellow educators!

On July 21, 2017, I joined a community of student leaders in the United Nations General Assembly Hall to celebrate innovative ideas in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations (UN). The event, themed “Many Languages, One World,” brought youth from around the globe together to present action plans for advancing the SDG. Their presentations were borne out an essay contest sponsored by ELS Educational Services and the UN. The contest encouraged young scholars to share their ideas on how to repair the quality of living within the areas of SDG, such as quality education, climate action, economy growth, and justice. The presentations, which were the culmination of research, exposed current issues in many countries and offered resolutions to avoid the stagnant results of previous trials.

As essay contest winners showcased their visions of the future, their presentations were simultaneously translated by interpreters into the UN’s six official languages. With the help of listening devices, those in attendance could hear the presentations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, or Spanish.

On the subject of education, students spoke up about the issues of race and sex, and advocated for equality in education to combat this problem. One student’s objective was to eliminate illiteracy and offer free secondary education. Another student argued that education could be the key to achieving all targets of the SDG. Others suggested how we, as global citizens, could support a switch to alternative sources of power, such as green energy, to reduce carbon dioxide. Students advocated for improvement in the quality of water in rural areas and explained how the water affects agricultural products. With limited access to food and water, students may become malnourished and dehydrated, and therefore struggle to succeed in school.

We need to make keeping students in school a priority. An essay winner speaking about Brazil revealed a link between school dropouts and criminal activity in that country. As global citizens who belong to the education community, we have to be mindful of students who may not live in safe conditions. Creating a comforting space within the classroom and leading students in project-based learning activities can allow them to feel safe and empowered.

We must increase collaborations among our neighboring countries and communicate our successes in repairing these damages. By sharing what’s wrong in one country, we can offer tips on how another country made it right. Improving the policies and systems of management that currently exist throughout all countries would reflect a global agreement on acceptable standards of living.

Diversity makes our society more resilient. Education makes it powerful.

Happy Teaching,
Clairetza Felix

Clairetza Felix is a graduate student in the Literacy Specialist program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She chose to become a UN Youth Representative to be able to offer a unique approach to education.

From Dropout to Doctoral Degree

Stories about hard work and perseverance are uplifting and give hope to others.

While those stories are inspirational, they often focus on only one side of the story—the student.

As a student, I was a diamond in the rough, but the other side of the story is that I owe my success to a nontraditional high school, my high school principal, and a teacher who saved my life.

The odds were against me. I was born into poverty and throughout my elementary years, I changed schools at least twice per year, every year. By eighth grade, I had given up on education; I did not care about grades or school. I started failing classes and, ultimately, ended up repeating eighth grade. I continued to switch schools often, as I jumped back and forth between divorced parents.

During my ninth-grade year, I left home. I met a boy, became pregnant, and my parents no longer welcomed me. Luckily, I moved in with his family and, for once in my life, had a steady home. I continued in school, but faced new obstacles. I was 16 and needed to work to support my family. I was juggling high school, a family, and working 30+ hours a week. In tenth grade, it all became too much for me and I dropped out of high school—lowering my odds of success even more. I was a statistic.

I knew there had to be a better way. I soon learned about an alternative high school for kids just like me. Little did I know this high school and the staff would be my saving grace. The school was located in a portable building and had approximately 20 students, with one principal and four teachers. The “go at your own pace” format allowed students to work and attend school part time. Students completed modules to obtain a basic high school diploma.

The staff made the high school effective. Mr. Finley, our principal, provided moral support and words of wisdom to build our confidence. He helped find scholarships and encouraged community college. He personally called if we missed school to make sure everything was okay and to offer transportation. He built trusting relationships with the students, and we knew that when times were rough, Mr. Finley would say the right things to help us get over the hump.

Ms. Baker, one of my teachers, excelled in relationship building. She monitored our progress and encouraged with incentives. She stocked the refrigerator with snacks and sodas for us to purchase. When someone earned credit, Ms. Baker rewarded them with a coupon for goodies in the refrigerator. We met with her often to discuss progress and, when students were within one credit required for graduation, Ms. Baker baked a cake to celebrate their success. We were a family at that little school. We counted on Mr. Finley and Ms. Baker for more than just academics; they believed in us when others did not. They offered kindness, love, and support that made learning enjoyable.

The last time I saw them was a warm May evening when I proudly strutted across the stage in a purple cap and gown as my name was called aloud. I wish they could know that was not the last time I walked across the stage. I strutted across three more times for undergraduate and master’s degrees. In May 2018, I will walk across a stage once again, dressed in velvet regalia as I am awarded a doctoral degree in education. I want Mr. Finley and Ms. Baker to know that without them, this would not have been possible. I am forever grateful for their love and support.

Nicole Koch is a first-grade teacher in Central Texas. She is currently finishing a doctoral degree in educational leadership at the University of Mary Hardin–Baylor. Among her research interests is student preparedness in the 21st-century workforce.

Research from The Educational Forum: A Call for Teacher Support of Art

Dr. Jodi Patterson is an art educator who wrote a paper for The Educational Forum titled “Too Important to Quit: A Call for Teacher Support of Art.” The essay is largely based on her experience teaching an undergraduate course called “Art for the Elementary Teacher,” a required methods course for education majors to earn their teacher certification in Washington state. A variety of students—including science, physical education, and math majors, not just art majors—take her course.

When Dr. Patterson first interviewed for her position, the department chair asked Jodi a key question…

The chairwoman asked me, “What is the most important thing you think your general education students should learn from taking an art methods course?”  

I replied, “I believe the most important thing a general education teacher should take away from my art class is an understanding that much of what they think they know about creativity and their personal art-making abilities is wrong.”

I elaborated on my answer, stating that many people believe humans are either born to be artists or not, or seem to think people are either creative or not. I offered a few key facts, something along the lines of how the workforce demands skills that cannot be outsourced, neuroscience backs up claims that the arts help with cognition in general, and drawing is a skill that can be taught. Then I ensured the committee that I would work hard to debunk art and creativity myths by providing them with concrete examples of what I would teach non-art students, including how to carefully observe the world so they can draw it, how to expand their notion of creativity from mere self-expression to include branches of interdisciplinary innovation, and thus, how to recognize the ways art can be harnessed to enhance both teaching and learning.

My answer to the “most important thing” question was a line in the sand. It was a promise that future teachers would have an opportunity to realize art’s power firsthand if they studied education at our university, and reinforced my desire to take the position.

The “most important thing” question was vital for another reason: It provided me with a focus. Sometimes the teaching profession gets hectic, passion gets diffused, and repetition of content can feel burdensome. But a simple mantra can help fortify convictions and serve as a basic reminder of why we teach. In this case, the department chair’s question framed my mantra: Authentic experience can obliterate fallacy. Such fallacy is propagated in and by our current educational system:

  1. Most young children emphatically enjoy engaging with the visual arts.
  2. Most teens quit art.
  3. Some teens who quit art become the teachers of young children who enjoy art (but as teachers are largely afraid to effectively employ art in their classrooms).

Future teachers need to be exposed to authentic art experiences to help obliterate this creative-crisis cycle. With all of the promises the visual arts bring to education, the specialized art teacher cannot do it alone. I fully realize such a statement is disruptive to both my field of art education and the educational system itself, so I took pains to outline my declaration in The Educational Forum. In reality, teachers don’t need published academic papers to clue them in to the benefits of art. We (the teachers) already stock our classrooms with art supplies because we know students enjoy using them. But what if we expanded art’s offering beyond paint and crayons? What if we believed in the power of active versus passive observation? What if we collectively encouraged divergent thinking over exalting the one right answer? Or if we all believed artistic skills could be taught, honed, and assessed just as readings skills can be? What if we understood the reading of both images and text to be equally vital skills for generations of digital natives? Could we obliterate the pubescent creative-crisis by being confident mentors who modeled, taught, and encouraged artistic behavior? How about instead of saying “I can’t,” we all said “I am learning”? How liberating would it be to the delicate psyche of humans to not feel self-defeated when confronted with trial and error opportunities—to have the confidence to practice, err, and re-invent? These are just some of the things the visual arts teach us.

The field of visual art must release itself from its specialized stronghold. Art is not exclusive unto itself, but rather inclusive to nearly all forms of human existence. If we hone generations of humans who are fierce warriors of mark-making, aesthetic up-taking, and divergent think-tanking, then together we can create a world of humans who, as Edmund Feldman coined it, become “human through art.” Art has the power to make this and many more beneficial promises so, but it needs a collective force to make it be.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. Patterson’s essay free with the education community through August 31, 2017. Read the full article here.

Celebrating Our 2017 Graduates Through Photos

Each spring, KDP staff members organize a photo contest for members to submit their graduation photos on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram) with the hashtag #KDPgrad and be entered into a drawing for one of five $20 gift certificates to the KDP Store.

This year, because the judges received so many great selfies, candids, and professional portraits as well as stories that accompanied, it was SO difficult a decision to choose only 5. But, rules are rules, so we are recognizing honorable mentions as well. (See the full album on Facebook here).

Below are the winners—in alphabetical order.

Saundra Armstrong

Saundra Armstrong, University of the District of Columbia

“After a career in the federal government and in non-for-profits for 20+ years in administrative positions, I was asked to substitute for two weeks. Needless to say 16 years later I’m still working with young children and have earned a BA with honors.”

Alexis Finch-Priester

Alexis Finch-Priester, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

“I started college heading in the nursing track. Throughout my high school years I’ve always had a job where I was working with children, and I continued while in college. During my first year of college a found a job in the local school system and LOVED what I was doing. I just knew that this was the job for me. Being a first generation college student I was a bit hesitant to explain to my family that I was going to be changing my major. I knew I was making the right decision. Without even noticing I had become an advocate for education. I realized my true passion for leading children, making every little moment teachable. I never thought that I would be graduating with an education degree but I am so excited that I get to call myself an educator. I’m so glad that I get to make a positive impact in the lives of children the way so many of my teachers did. I know this job will be rewarding in so many ways and I can’t wait to have my own classroom.”

Malia Rivera

Malia Rivera, James Madison University

“When I was in 8th grade, I had a teacher tell me I wasn’t good at math and I’d never be good. Later in High School I came to the realization that my teacher was very wrong, I was good at math! All I needed was a teacher who believed in my success. Since then, I have been determined to become a secondary math teacher. My journey to becoming a teacher has lead me on a mission to get rid of the mindset of “I can’t do that, I’m not good at math” that many students have. All it takes is one great teacher that believes in them, and I plan on being that teacher.”

Michael Williams

Michael Williams, Georgia State University

“I grew up in poverty and lost my mother at a young age. Growing up, teachers were there for me when I needed them the most. I experienced first-hand how much impact an educator can have on a child’s life. I dropped out of high school in 10th grade for no good reason. If it weren’t for some of my close family and my teachers, I am not sure I would have returned to school and completed my high school diploma. My teachers pushed me to apply for colleges and did everything they could to help me out. After spending two years at a smaller college, I transferred to Georgia State University where I just graduated summa cum laude with my Bachelors of Science in Middle-Level Education with concentrations in language arts, social science, and special education general curriculum. I also completed a minor in special education: high incidence disabilities. I’ll be working through the summer as a 7th-grade social science teacher in Atlanta, GA and will officially begin my teaching career as an 8th-grade Georgia History teacher in Gwinnett County Public Schools for the 2017-2018 school year.”

Kathy Zhao

Kathy Zhao, Stevenson University

“I have always loved working with children since I was 12 years old. I started with babysitting, then in the summer I was a camp counselor, and later worked at a daycare. From there I feel in love and I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. I believe that teachers are the foundation. My senior year of college, I loved every moment of student teaching and I knew right away that teaching will be my passion. I loved seeing my student’s eyes light up when they understand something they learned. I want to be apart and touch many children’s lives.”


And these are our honorable mentions (in alphabetical order)…

Sierra Becker

Sierra Becker, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (for Best Mortar Board)

“I have always had a caring, passionate personality. Throughout my college career I have dabbled in various career paths; however, I always wandered back to teaching. Once I transferred to UW-Whitewater I dove head first into everything I needed to do in order to excel as a secondary educator. Even with an accident last fall that has postponed my student teaching, I have stayed resilient with my career path. From that, and through the resources that KDP has offered me, I have found a multitude of opportunities to continue my career in the teaching field and continue my service educating our youth!”

Ursula Bryant

Ursula Bryant, University of Saint Thomas-Houston (for Most Inspirational Story)

“I was a teen mom, didn’t get a high school diploma. At 21 I received my GED. I was a single stay at home mother with two children who were disabled. After my son died in 1997, I started school, receiving my degree in teaching at the age of 40. After teaching ten years, I returned for my master’s in school counseling, which I’ve graduated with May 20, 2017.”

Audre Cantrell

Audre Cantrell, Northeastern State University (for Best Action Shot)

“I started my journey by volunteering with Community Action Project in Tulsa, OK (CAP Tulsa). It is an early childhood program for low income families. The program provides early childhood education to the child as well as before and after care. The program also helps the family find work, extra food, and clothing. The mission of CAP Tulsa is to pull the whole family out of poverty. I have been working with the program for the past three summers (first as a volunteer and twice as a part time teacher assistant). Because of this experience, I was motivated to go back to school to receive my Early Childhood Education degree. I have been offered and accepted a lead teacher position in a three year old classroom with CAP Tulsa. I am so excited to share my love for learning and play with my students. Education is a powerful tool to have in life. I want to inspire my students to continue to learn and to become a lifelong learner.”

Research from The Educational Forum: Orienting Schools Toward Equity

Today’s blogger is Rachel Garver, a doctoral candidate in Teaching and Learning at New York University. She writes here about her research on racial and economic inequality, school segregation, and policy implementation recently published in The Educational Forum.

For the last two decades, the United States has pursued educational equity by holding schools accountable for the comparative outcomes of student subgroups.  

Subgroup accountability, part of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) since its 2001 reauthorization, requires states to identify and intervene in schools where the progress of student subgroups based on race, economic disadvantage, or English proficiency is lagging. Cited schools must show improvement for the subgroups identified by the state or they will face a series of increasingly severe sanctions.

Research on subgroup accountability pressure is mixed. In some cases, the subgroups cited by the state show progress in subsequent years and in other cases there was no effect.

The promise of subgroup accountability pressure to promote equity relies on the process of policy implementation in schools. How school-based actors interpret and enact mandates determines the form in which policy interventions reach students and thereby impacts outcomes.

I utilize an ethnographic case study of Germaine Middle School (pseudonym) to explore the means through which subgroup accountability pressure oriented the school toward equity and, more specifically, toward the student subgroups cited by the state—if at all.

I find that subgroup accountability pressure encouraged Germaine to focus on their achievement gaps in general, but did not lead to targeted interventions for the state-identified student subgroups.

Why did the school’s citation hold little weight in the day-to-day practices at Germaine? A lack of transparency in the state’s calculations, a lack of faith in the state exams and test scores used to identify cited schools, and ethical concerns with using accountability data to inform instructional and curricular reforms delegitimized the state’s determinations in the eyes of Germaine’s staff members. School-based understandings of which student subgroups were most in need drove Germaine’s equity work, instead of subgroup accountability pressure. However, district administrators insisted that Germaine align its compliance practices with the state findings and measures, even if they were symbolic and irrelevant to classroom practice.

Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal policy has played an important role in equalizing educational opportunity for marginalized student groups across the wide variance in state politics and practices. The promise of subgroup accountability to promote equity in schools is dependent on how it is received and implemented by state, district, and school actors. For subgroup accountability to fulfill its intentions, citations need to be delivered to schools with greater transparency. Moreover, districts, as intermediaries between the state and schools, must support schools in responding to citations in ways that prioritize equity over state compliance pressures.