The Daily Teacher Struggle When Faced With Declining Wages

It is starting to become the norm for teachers to seek out other forms of income to make up lost ground from low teacher salaries that plague many schools from coast to coast. In this Multibriefs Exclusive from 2016, I highlighted the struggle that many of today’s teachers face and what they are doing to try to make up for lost income in other ways. I also explored the solutions that some communities are implementing in an effort to address the teacher pay dilemma. In this Multibriefs Exclusive just over a year ago, I wrote about the real costs of being a teacher, detailing how teachers try to stretch their supply budgets for their classrooms and avoid the inevitable fate that they will need to spend their own money to purchase the classroom supplies that their students need. This struggle is real, and a year later, there seems to be no end in site in the downward trend of teacher salaries across the country and their lasting impact on our profession.
According to this report by the Na…

Eliminating Grade Levels

In a recent EdSurge article, writer Felice Hybert introduces the notion of eliminating grade levels in an effort to better connect classes to careers. Hybert highlighted work in the Kankakee Public Schools in Illinois where elementary students are introduced to a number of career pathways in an effort to start conversations and explorations around career possibilities. By high school, students are engaged in a college and career academy that is project-based. Efforts are now underway to transform these high schools into competency-based models.

In New Hampshire, a movement called NG2: No Grades, No Grades - Personalized Inclusive Education Pathways Through Multiage Competency-Based Education has been paving the way for many New Hampshire schools at the elementary level to develop move when ready systems and eliminate grade levels. The focus of NG2 work is on co-teaching, project-based learning, and equity. The common denominator in the work happening in both Illinois and New Hampshire …

Finding Your Path Toward Competency-Based Learning

Imagine trying to go somewhere for the first time without having access to a map. Worse yet, imagine being the great explorers Lewis and Clark who crossed the western part of our country for the first time in 1804 with no map, no roads, and little knowledge of what it was going to take to get to their destination. In education like in many fields, early adopters often feel like trail-blazers too; using research, trends, and sometimes their guts to forge new ways of thinking and doing. If you are a school leader looking to move your school to competency-based learning today, you may feel a daunting sense of helplessness as you embark on your journey. The good news is that many have come before you and have contributed to the maps that you can use to guide your own journey.
Nearly a decade ago, I, along with other educational leaders, felt like Lewis and Clark as we each embarked on journeys to transform our schools with systems that would later come to be known as competency-based learn…

Embedding Community Service Into Schools

At my New Hampshire High School, we have a community service tradition that all of our seniors participate in called the “Senior Day of Caring.” During this one day in early fall, our seniors sign up in groups or as individuals to engage in any number of community service activities that have been identified in our community. Some of our seniors return to their elementary schools to help out in classrooms for the day. Others head to the public library to help them with a big project. Some go to the local senior citizen center to help residents with light cleaning, painting, moving, or other similar projects. Others help community members with light housework or yard work. This tradition, which has persisted in my school community for the better part of two decades, often leaves our students hearts filled with love and a hunger to do more, at least that is what we hope.

Last month, four of my female students took it upon themselves to plan what became a school-sponsored humanitarian tri…

Fostering Self Advocacy Skills for All Students

What does it mean for a student to successfully self-advocate? Simply put, self-advocacy happens when a student, at any age, knows what they need to be successful and feels empowered to ask for help if and when they need it. The rise of innovative student-centered learning environments in K-12 education has increased the need for self-advocacy skills, particularly for students with disabilities. Educators are left to grapple with questions such as these: What are the best practices to teach these skills? What are the opportunities to practice these skills? What is the impact on student success?
This past week, I had the honor of joining a team of panelists invited by the National Center for Learning Disabilities for Austin’s annual SXSW EDU conference to discuss this very issue. Our session was titled Why I Won’t Ask for Help: Self-Advocacy for All. It was facilitated by NCLD’s Vice President and Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer Lindsay Jones. In addition to myself, I was joined by pa…

How Do We Bring Back Imagination in the Schools?

My wife Erica and I made a startling revelation one recent Saturday afternoon about our five children and a decline in their ability to engage in imaginary play. We often have what we refer to in our house as “no technology Saturdays” in our attempt to get our children away from the screens that seem to dominate their weekdays, particularly as a result of their school work. As we sat in the kitchen, we watched our three year old Zoey playing on the living room floor with her dolls and dollhouse, deeply engaged in imaginative play. The next oldest, five year old Owen, would play with Zoey off and on, but was always looking for us to prompt him to re-engage in play with his sister. Our older boys Liam, Cameron, and Brady, ages 8, 10, and 12 were struggling to reach consensus on what activity to do. Once they agreed upon something, they were having a difficult time engaging in it without several prompts from my wife and I what they should do (they were trying to make a skit that they cou…

A Grading Debate: The Pros and Cons of Reassessments Brian M. Stack

It is a typical day at my New Hampshire High School and I am observing a biology class. The teacher is returning a recent assessment to her students that they completed on ecosystems. Students are reviewing the teacher’s feedback and their grades on the assessment, as noted on the rubric that they had been given in advance. The rubric breaks the assignment into several transferable skills and objectives (we call these competencies) and explains, in student-friendly language, what it means for a student to perform on that skill/objective at a limited proficient, basic proficient, proficient, or exemplary level. Students were asked to complete a self-reflection, comparing their work to the rubric and identifying ways that they could improve it that could potentially bring their grade to the next level. Students were given the option to complete a reassessment plan with the teacher, a plan which detailed what they would do to improve their learning, and by what date. The teacher met one …