Denver teacher offers her take on Won’t Back Down movie

Won’t Back Down is a work of fiction that looks to parent trigger laws as a strategy for school reform. I want to emphasize the word fiction for anyone who missed it the first time. Much has already been written about the film, for or against it. I will share what I know to be non-fiction, based on my 25 years of practice as an accomplished teacher. These things I know…

I am one of “those” kids. When speaking of kids living in poverty, many people refer to “those” kids. This is not a reason to feel sorry for them (or me) or to make excuses about why we cannot learn. But it is the first step in creating separation between people and factions.

In Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children, she suggests that as long as we consider “those” children as other people’s children and not “our” children, we will never provide all students the education that they need and deserve. Pronouns can mean a lot. I have been one of “those” kids and can speak from experience about what “we” need and what we don’t. But even those whose demographic data is different can help support our children. All of them.

Perpetuating separation and divisiveness maintains the status quo. Pitting parents against unions, teachers against parents, Teach for America teachers against career teachers, veteran teachers against novice teachers and ed reformers against unions ensures that we stay mired in division that simply maintains the situation as it is. Casting blame and shame only perpetuates the false dichotomy of us versus them. Meanwhile, our kids sit by day after day while adults play power games at their expense.

Meaningful change requires collective action. Margaret Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science, suggests that, “Real change happens…only when we take time to discover what’s worthy of our shared attention.”

As it turns out, it’s not so difficult to identify factors that are worthy of our shared attention. For example, teacher evaluation must improve to encourage individual teachers’ growth and, when necessary, allow for dismissal.  School leaders need to be equipped with the tools and resources necessary to support teaching and learning. We need to rethink school design so we can tailor instruction to students’ needs.

But creating systemic and sustainable change will require us ALL to work together to redesign the system for our kids. And teachers must play critical roles in identifying solutions—for we will be the ones who bring the changes to life in the classroom each day.

We WILL change the system when we actually muster up enough will to do so. As long as all of the different factions involved in education hold tight to oppositional roles, we will not muster the will to actually change anything. When we REALLY decide that ALL students deserve a quality public education—when that becomes our genuine priority and is the outlet for our energy and motivation— then we will make that change happen. It is as simple as that.

Our kids and our country deserve better.

I, for one, am ready to collaborate. Are you? I don’t care what factions you’re part of, what label you wear, or what your history (or your organization’s history) may have been. I am willing to work alongside all who are truly dedicated to supporting the collective action and systemic change that is so sorely needed by our most vulnerable kids.

Our kids do not have time to waste on adults slinging mud like children. Our kids and our country deserve a better public education system and I intend to help provide it for them.

Who among us is willing to lift yourself up out of the divisiveness, connect around a common vision and create a system that works for all children? While some “won’t back down,” I Will Stand Up for our kids, for our community and for my profession. Will you join me?

Lori Nazareno, NBCT
Teacher in Residence, Center for Teaching Quality
Denver Classroom Teachers Association-CEA-NEA Member


State Board endorses statewide evaluation system

On Wednesday, the Colorado State Board of Education approved rules and regulations for the implementation of Senate Bill 10-191. CEA is generally satisfied with the outcome of the State Board’s deliberations and final vote. We view the new rules as a first step in implementing SB 191 and in the creation of a comprehensive, high quality, and meaningful statewide system of teacher and principal evaluation.

The framework for the new evaluation system is the core of the work on SB 191 to date. While there are unresolved issues about SB 191, such as how to measure educator effectiveness in non-CSAP subjects, our Association believes that when the law is fully implemented in 2014, we will have a solid statewide system because school districts must meet or exceed the state level standards.

The “statewide” issue arose in September as the State Board reviewed draft rules written by Colorado Department of Education staff. The issue was whether there would be a single statewide evaluation system or if districts would be permitted to have their own systems that skirted the intent of the law. CEA’s position continued to be, throughout recent debate, that the evaluation system must be a single statewide system. Yesterday the State Board confirmed our position.

Our Association began working on teacher evaluation when Gov. Bill Ritter formed a task force before the Legislature even passed SB 191 during its 2010 session. Three CEA members worked tirelessly on the State Council for Educator Effectiveness (SCEE) for more than a year to make sure Colorado’s evaluation system is the best it can be. On behalf of our 40,000 members, we thank Amie Baca Oehlert (District Twelve EA), Kerrie Dallman (Jefferson County EA), and Jim Smyth (Mesa Valley EA) for their contributions to SCEE’s work. These three local association presidents have been working with administrators, parents, students, and the business community on evaluation and are expert resources for our organization.

CEA is committed to continuing the collaborative work begun by the State Council and supporting the work that will be done by teachers and principals in the SB 191 pilot districts. Lessons learned from the pilot will inform the next steps in SB 191 implementation.

CEA members want accountability in public education and in their schools – accountability for educators and for everyone that results in improving the quality of teaching, increasing student achievement, and making schools safer, better places to learn.

Engage in educator effectiveness conversation, Friday night on RMPBS

We encourage CEA members to tune into a Rocky Mountain PBS program on Friday about educator effectiveness.

It’s “Colorado State of Mind” this Friday night, September 16, from 7:30-8:00 p.m. The regular 30-minute on-air program will be followed by a panel discussion that will feature Michelle Conroy, a teacher in Craig and Moffat County EA member, and Henry Roman, a Denver teacher and Denver CTA president. There will also be a live online chat from 7:30-9:00 p.m., moderated by Alan Gottlieb, publisher of EdNews Colorado, an online education news source.

CEA is a co-sponsor of this program. Rocky Mountain PBS is partnering with PEBC (Public Education & Business Coalition) and EdNews Colorado on this program with the goal of exploring the challenges of measuring educator effectiveness.

You can post questions and comments now and throughout the Friday night live program — and we hope you will.

Daniel Pink, “Drive” author, says no to carrot-and-stick approach

Popular author Daniel Pink said this week that schools and other organizations must focus on three things to increase employee motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Speaking at the annual conference of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), Pink said the carrot-and-stick approach won’t work with educators, blogged blogger Amy Dominello.

School management focuses on compliance, but should switch to encouraging teachers to engage through self-direction and autonomy. Pink said that motivation also depends on feedback and subject mastery, adding that society depends on instant feedback — and teachers get feedback about their instruction too late.

Pink asserted that schools and other organizations do not explain “why,” either. “If people don’t know why they are doing it, they are going to do it less well,” Pink said.

House Education Committee Debates SB 191 Today

The House Education Committee is scheduled to take up SB 191 this afternoon in the Old Supreme Court Chambers. CEA continues its opposition to the bill.

In a release sent to the media this morning, CEA President Beverly Ingle says, “We are working with legislators to make this bill more about teacher effectiveness and student achievement and less about punishing teachers and undermining the profession.”

“[CEA] wants a good quality evaluation system designed to help every teacher become a better teacher. We want a quality teacher in every classroom. We want to close the achievement gap and help all students succeed. Senate Bill 191 does not help,” she said.

Ingle continues, saying that CEA knows what works: time to teach and collaborate, parent involvement and support, meaningful mentoring of new teachers, high quality professional development, small classes, and adequate resources.

“These are the quality factors that make a difference. But these factors are not addressed in SB 191…because SB 191 is not about good teaching and learning.”

To listen in on today’s proceedings in the House Education Committee, click on “Old Supreme Court Chambers” in the lower-left on this page.

New Radio Ads: “Gifts, Grants and Donations” and “Responsible Reform”

Senate Bill 191 is up for a final vote in the Senate today, and then will be heard in the House Education Committee next week. CEA members continue to tell legislators why SB 191 is an unworkable bill. Here are CEA’s two new radio ads now airing in the Denver metro area: “Gifts, Grants and Donations” and “Responsible Reform.”

Remember to contact your legislators and tell them to say no to SB 191!

Diane Ravitch Visits Denver, Speaks Out Against SB 191

Diana Ravitch, a well-known author and education expert (and former assistant secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration), is in Denver this week.

Ravitch is attending a number of events in Denver, including presenting at CU’s School of Education and the Education and the Public Interest Center in Boulder tonight. Tomorrow morning, Ravitch will attend a public event at Manual High School and will then participate in a debate with State Sen. Michael Johnston at a private lunch hosted by the Donnell-Kay Foundation (register for the Manual event here).

In yesterday’s Denver Post, Ravitch comments on SB 191, saying, “When you attach rewards and salaries to test scores, people will do anything to get the scores up, and it will not lead to better education.”

In a recent post on her own blog, Bridging Differences, Ravitch says, “…If any of our public officials is talking to testing experts, they are likely to discover that their plans to evaluate teachers by student test scores are technically invalid and will produce perverse (but predictable) effects that actually damage learning and are likely to undermine the teaching profession.”

In addition to being an author and speaker, Ravitch is a professor and historian of education at New York University.