Listening to Teacher voices part 2

I recently contacted NBC regarding their Education Nation summit next week, and shared a concern that a few of us had blogged about that didn’t appear to be any building level teacher or principal representation at the summit, but rather a plethora of business leaders and political leaders.  I was also concerned that the only event which appeared to include teachers airs at noon on a Sunday, hardly prime viewing time.

I just felt like this event was an opportunity to have some very real conversations instead of pre-packaged ones, and I did hope that NBC saw it that way as well.

On their part, NBC representatives have been very responsive to my emailed questions and concerns, and answered all my emails.

And in the latest email, they indicated that there will be teachers presenting at the summit.

For whatever reason the teacher names are being gradually added to the Education Nation site and to their Facebook page.  (perhaps they weren’t all scheduled at the outset, but that is hard to say so I won’t pursue that line of thinking.)

In the letter below, NBC’s Summer Wilkie shares the list of educator-presenters and indicates more names will be added.   I’m pleased to hear that these teachers are summit members,  certainly pleased at their accomplishments but most definitely wish that NBC had given them more prominence in the initial promotional materials.

But in looking through all the bios, the language used is  primarily focusing on these teachers in relation to the “achievement scores” of their students.  While of course we want effective teachers to be sharing their leadership at the summit, it’s beginning to feel like rather than being an exploration of teaching that helps our students be well-rounded global citizens, it is a promotion of the agenda of  helping students succeed at “achievement testing”.

I really don’t want to be cynical, but isn’t school and learning about more than that?

And are the scores on one annual achievement test the only way we measure a school’s or teacher’s successes in the classroom?   And can’t we have a summit that also focuses on the broader, longer term  challenges and questions we face?   It’s just such a rich opportunity to have a national discussion but it can’t be a discussion that’s already been decided before it happens.

For what it’s worth, I did write back to both representatives who replied to me, encouraging them to include some innovative edtech teacher-leaders and principals, as well as college level educators in their summit panels.

See the email from Summer Wilkie at NBC below;  I appreciate her prompt response and  I’d be interested in your comments.

“Hi Carolyn –  We chose Sunday at noon for the Teacher Town Hall as we
found that was the best time for teachers on both coasts (all time
zones) to be able to participate because they would not be working. And
in addition to the Teacher Town Hall, we do have teachers participating
at the summit Monday and Tuesday as well. Below is a partial list, we
will continue to add updates to our website and Facebook page.

Kaycee Eckhardt had been teaching for four years in Japan when Hurricane
Katrina hit her native Louisiana on her 25th birthday. Inspired to
return home and teach in New Orleans, she took a job as a 9th grade
reading teacher at New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy. Her
school serves some of the areas hit worst by Hurricane Katrina and often
struggles to provide hot food, running water, and electricity. Despite
that, in the past two years, Kaycee’s students have averaged a
phenomenal three years of growth each year. In addition, Kaycee’s
students have the highest math and science scores of any school in New
Orleans. In 2009, she was awarded the Louisiana Charter School
Association Teacher of the Year award.

Sarah Zuckerman teaches art in Indianapolis, Indiana. As an art teacher
she is deeply committed to making sure students develop core literacy
skills and integrates literacy into all her art lessons. As a result her
students have shown consistent academic growth in all their tested
subjects. Sarah has taught abroad in China and Mexico and is a
practicing artist who has shown her work nationally and internationally.
Sarah received the Sontag Prize for Urban Education in 2010 and was a
2009 Teach Plus Fellow.

Shakera Walker is an award winning kindergarten teacher and a passionate
advocate for the education reform movement and early childhood
education. With over 8 years of teaching experience, Shakera continues
to have a dramatic impact on student achievement. As a result of her
incredible leadership, Shakera was awarded The Sontag Prize in Urban
Education (2010).

Joseph Almeida teaches 6th grade math at KIPP Infinity in New York City.
He has created a YouTube channel with tailored lessons recorded for his
students so that they can learn both inside and outside of the
classroom. Joseph was awarded the Sue Lehman Award for Teaching
excellence by Teach for America and was featured in the recently
released book “Teaching as Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher’s
Guide in Closing the Achievement Gap,” a book that has been hailed for
both its policy and pedagogical influence.

David Wu, who spent part of his life in Taiwan, is a high school
Chemistry teacher at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. Originally
headed to medical school, he decided to join Teach for America for two
years and has now stayed four. His students, who often start far below
the district and statewide averages for Chemistry, have beaten both the
district average and state average the last two years on the California
Standards Test. He is also the first teacher at Dorsey High School to
see one of his students score a perfect score on the CST–and he’s had
two students do it in the last two years.

Kelly Burnette is a high school Biology and Physical Science teacher
from Nassau, Florida. Her school district, which has quickly transformed
from a rural community to a bustling suburb, has one brand-new
state-of-the-art high school and another one built in 1912. Kelly just
recently transferred from the new school in the suburbs to the older
school in an under served area in an attempt to help that school turn
around. At her previous school, Kelly helped lead teachers at a school
that had been given a “D” grade in 2007-2008 to an  “A” rating in
2008-2009. For her work, she was chosen as a finalist for Florida’s
Teacher of the Year award.

Abigail Garland teaches 12th grade history at IDEA College Prep, a
charter school in Donna, Texas, at which 80% of its students qualify for
free or reduced lunch. She previously taught at Jaurez-Lincoln High
School in La Joya, Texas. For the past three years, not a single student
of Abigail’s has failed his or her state assessment, and 80% scored a
90% or higher on the 11th grade Social Studies exam. In 2008-2009 she
was awarded the Humanities Texas award as an outstanding teacher. Since
becoming Department Head the school’s state assessment passing rate has
not fallen below 99% and commended scores (scores of 90% or higher) have
risen from 50% to 73%. Abigail is passionate about higher education, and
her classroom goals are derived from her hope that every student will
have the ability to succeed in college.

Doris Milano is an elementary school teacher in Palm Beach County,
Florida. During her 16-year tenure as an educator in her community,
Doris has inspired and challenged her students to soar beyond
mediocrity. For three consecutive years, Doris students have made more
than a year and a half of growth in a year’s time in all subject areas.
Doris has won numerous awards for her teaching practice, including the
EXCEL Award from the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Fatima Rich teaches 4th and 5th grade at Greenbrier Elementary in
Indianapolis, IN. Although 77% of the students at Greenbrier qualify for
Free or Reduced Price Lunch, she has seen phenomenal growth in her
student’s test scores, with more than 30% increase in the number of
students who scored proficient or advanced in one year and her students
are now beating the state average on the 5th grade math assessment.

Erin Dukeshire has taught middle school science in Miami and Boston and
currently took a job as the science teacher at a turnaround school
called Orchard Gardens because she wanted to transform a Boston school
where only 3% of the students are proficient in math and none were
proficient in science. At her previous school Erin lifted her students’
science scores from 15% below the state average to well above the

Pamela Heuer is a 7th and 8th Grade Reading teacher in Indianapolis
Public Schools. An alumna of Teach For America, Heuer’s students
averaged 1.9 years of growth in one semester during the 2008-2009 school
year, and her students were recognized as the fastest growing students
in the entire Indianapolis school district. For spearheading a peer
reading program with a neighboring elementary school, Heuer received the
Eli Lilly New Teacher Challenge Award.

Claudia Aguirre is the principal at MS 247 Dual Language Middle School
in Manhattan.  That school, which teaches about half of its classes in
each language, has quickly moved up the ranks of New York City’s middle
schools because of Claudia’s efforts to impose strict program of classes
and work, add academic help sessions and social activities after regular
school hours. MS 247 now tests on par with the average middle school in
the state across the board, a marked improvement from the scores before
Claudia took over.

Michelle Henry teachers 3rd-5th Grade Mathematics at Witter Elementary
in Florida. Although a full 93 percent of Witter’s students qualify for
Free or Reduced Lunch, the school had an 82 percent AYP rating in 2009.
In addition, the Foundation for Excellence in Education recently
presented Henry an award for having some of the greatest math gains of
any teacher in the state of Florida. Henry is the recipient of the Mary
Fraiser National Scholar of Gifted Education Award is rated an
“Outstanding Teacher” under MAP and the Teacher Incentive Fund.

Pam Williams, the current Georgia Teacher of the Year, is a high school
social studies and economics teacher from rural Appling County in
southern Georgia.  A strong advocate for the Common Core State
Standards, Pam is spending part of this year touring the state to talk
to teachers and advocate for them at the state level.  She has
previously taught in a self-contained 6th grade classroom, middle school
Spanish, music, language arts, and social studies before moving to the
high school level. In the last two years, she has taken over the
economics program at Appling County High School and saw a 33% increase
in the number of students passing the statewide End of Year Test after
she redesigned the curriculum.”

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