The Best of Us
The Best of UsNov 07, 2023
S2/E8: Optimizing PLCs and Workshops for Success, with Dr. Magdalena Ganias
In this episode of The Best of Us, we talk with Dr. Magdalena Ganias of Worcester Public Schools about concrete strategies to set up PD efforts for success.
As Worcester’s Manager of Curriculum & Professional Learning, Magdalena is no stranger to the challenge of balancing multiple support structures like PLCs, coaching, and workshops without overwhelming teachers. She takes us through Worcester’s system for building specific short-term PLC goals, creating and analyzing common assessments to assess student progress, and reflecting on instructional practices.
The conversation also covers different roles within PLCs beyond the facilitator, how teachers can use journey mapping to reflect on their own practice, and much more.
S2/E7: Quantifying Teacher Success, with Dr. Dan Goldhaber
In this episode of The Best of Us, we’re joined by Dr. Dan Goldhaber, director of University of Washington’s Center for Education Data & Research and AIR’s Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.
Dan takes us through the hard data on predicting teacher and school success, patterns of educator improvement, and the difference that pre-service and in-service experience can make for novice teachers.
We also cover the impact of national board certification, mid-career skill plateaus, and compensation incentives across the country.
S2/E6: Superintendents’ Role in Teacher Support, with Kevin McGowan
In this episode of The Best of Us, we sit down with Dr. Kevin McGowan, Superintendent of Brighton Central School District and longest-tenured school leader in the country.
Our conversation covers the length and breadth of Kevin’s leadership, from addressing graduation rate disparities to tailored teacher PD and beyond.
We also dig into the ins and outs of establishing collaborative teacher culture, the nitty-gritty of Brighton’s blueprint planning process, and aligning professional development with district priorities. Kevin also provides practical context and advice for district leaders looking to replicate Brighton’s success and develop collaborative cultures of their own.
S2/E5: S2/E5: Principals or Peers: Who Should Evaluate Teachers?, with Drs. Alyson Lavigne & Tim Ford
In this episode of The Best of Us,we sit down with Dr. Alyson Lavigne and Dr. Tim Ford to cover the wide world of teacher evaluation. These two instructional leadership researchers share a wealth of knowledge about evaluation’s past, present and future, from questions of teacher motivation to the impact of Race to the Top and beyond.
Research shows that much of the past decade’s carrot-and-stick evaluation reforms didn't actually have much of an impact on teaching and learning outcomes. School leaders spend more time documenting performance than actually providing feedback to improve instruction. At the same time, teachers question both the validity and utility of their results.
So where do we go from here? Tim and Alyson take us through what’s working across the world from Chile to Japan, findings from their research around teacher motivation, practical ways to move beyond the checkbox, and much more.
S2/E4: Understanding Educators as a Workforce, with Dr. Tequilla Brownie
In this episode of The Best of Us, we talk with Dr. Tequilla Brownie, CEO of The New Teacher Project, about ways to understand and address the teacher shortage as a workforce issue.
Public school systems are usually among the top employers of any given town or city, yet it’s often expected for K-12 to solve its own workforce issues. Tequilla points out that teacher shortages have been an ongoing problem, and that solving them requires the kind of innovative solutions and assistance usually enjoyed by private employers.
She also explores boots-on-the-ground strategies working for Tennessee and Mississippi, why teacher workforce conversations focus on the wrong metrics, the importance of killing one’s sacred cows, and much more.
S2/E3: Research-Backed Strategies in Professional Learning, with Dr. Peter DeWitt
In this episode of The Best of Us, we talk with education researcher and author Dr. Peter DeWitt about research-backed concepts and strategies to make professional learning better. We cover:
- Metacognition: teaching learners to think about their own thinking
- De-implementation: abandoning low-value practices to make room for impactful work
- Reciprocal transfer of learning: Collaborative PD that produces more than the sum of its parts
…And much more.
Peter speaks to examples from his own practice, and offers concrete strategies for PD success criteria that accurately and actionably reflect the results.
S2/E2: Building Long-Term Systems for Educator Growth, with Kaya Henderson
In this episode of The Best of Us, we talk with Kaya Henderson, former Chancellor of DC Public Schools, about the philosophy and tactics behind the district’s long-term plan for recruiting and retaining exceptional educators.
Kaya highlights the all-too-frequent administrative disconnect between teachers' needs and the professional development they receive, and explains how replacing traditional PD with a tailored DCPS teaching and learning framework led to a public school system that doesn’t just attract great teachers but retain them for career-long success.
She also covers DCPS’s systems for talent development, connecting teacher pay to teacher accountability, why professional learning can’t be outsourced and much more.
S2/E1: Preparing the Black Teachers of Tomorrow with Sharif El-Mekki
In this episode of The Best of Us, Center for Black Educator Development (CBED) founder Sharif El-Mekki talks us through rebuilding the Black teacher pipeline by focusing on the teachers of tomorrow: today’s middle and high school students.
The CBED focuses on advocating for policies that promote diversity, providing professional learning opportunities, and creating pathways for aspiring Black teachers.
Sharif takes us through investing entire leadership teams in diversity work, strategies for community partnerships in an embattled education ecosystem, and the importance of Black teacher voice. He also speaks to the critical importance of not just recruiting Black teachers, but retaining them — and why so many districts stumble after the “what comes next?”
S1/E12: Helping Black and Brown Education Leaders Thrive, with Carmita Semaan
In this episode of The Best of Us, Surge Institute founder Carmita Semaan takes us through the ins and outs of investing in Black, brown, and Asian talent across the education ecosystem.
Carmita draws a clear line between leadership investments and exponential growth in access and opportunities for young people. She also discusses the key differences between professional development and leadership acceleration, highlights the work of changemakers you may not know, and gives practical advice on creating conditions for underrepresented leaders to thrive.
S1/E11: Collaborative Instructional Rounds for Real-Time Classroom Growth, with Matt Griesinger
It’s inarguable that teachers are experts on what their students need. So how can school administrators leverage that expertise to make professional learning collaborative rather than top-down?
In this episode of The Best of Us, we speak with Matt Griesinger, Assistant Principal of Northwest Education Services Career Tech and author of the recent article “How Administrators Can Make Professional Learning More Collaborative.”
Matt's approach to professional learning is grounded in teacher efficacy, collaboration, and actionable feedback. He walks us through: the nitty-gritty of the three-tiered peer learning process that transformed North Ed’s PD landscape, plus administrators’ role in giving educators a voice in their own learning, and practical strategies for collecting expertise already present in the school building.
We also cover non-evaluative instructional rounds as a core part of school culture, and the possibilities that spring up when teachers learn from each other's classrooms.
S1/E10: Preparing Pre-K - 12 Educators to Teach Climate Change Without the Doom and Gloom with Stephanie Sisk-Hilton
86% of teachers (and 80% of parents) believe that climate science needs to be taught in schools, yet fewer than 50% of teachers do — and less than one-quarter have received any professional training on climate change or how to teach it. Stephanie Sisk-Hilton, Elementary Education professor at San Francisco State University, hopes to change that.
How do we teach students about climate change through a justice lens that is appropriate for different ages and subject areas? How do we cover the subject in a way that doesn’t terrify students, but instead lets them see themselves as change agents? These are a few of the questions we discuss with Stephanie, who is working on creating a Climate Justice Education Certificate for pre-K - 12 teaching.
S1/E9: Solving State-Wide Teacher Shortage with Paraprofessional-to-Teacher Pipelines
Heading into fall 2022, nearly 7% of teaching positions in North Dakota were unfilled. Between attracting young talent and retaining career professionals, a teacher shortage crisis in a rural state can be particularly challenging — but North Dakota's Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI) found a way.
In this episode of the Best of Us, we speak with Laurie Matzke, Assistant State Superintendent for the NDDPI. Laurie shares how her team found inspiration in the state’s first paraprofessional-to-teacher pipeline program, originally created prior to the pandemic, to build post-COVID solutions for special education and teacher shortages across the spectrum. We discuss the partnerships that have been critical to successfully expanding the program, what they’ve learned along the way, and how they’re measuring success.
S1/E8: Applying Universal Design for Learning to Teacher PD with Katie Novak
Internationally renowed education consultant Katie Novak works across the world to help education systems incorporate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) so that students are better supported and teachers have more balance.
In this episode of The Best of Us, Katie shares ways in which educators can apply UDL to professional learning, and how instructional coaches can look for UDL in classrooms. We also talked about the inspiration for her recent article “It’s OK to be Uncomfortable When Talking About Race” and how barriers such as racism and ableism are preventing many students from accessing rigorous instruction.
S1/E7: Creating Sustainable Leadership Development Pipelines with David Pinder of D.C. Public Schools
In 2021, Chancellor of DC Public Schools Lewis Ferebee identified sustainable leadership pipelines as a critical challenge to the district’s operations. DCPS’s teacher-leaders, assistant principals, and principals were working hard, but needed significant extra coaching to execute that work and stay in the profession. That’s when Ferrebee decided to create an office of leadership development which would not only recruit the best educators to the district but also implement a defined career ladder that would provide educators with the experiences they needed to become effective leaders. Chancellor Ferrebee turned to Dr. David Pinder to be the Chief of Leadership Development.
In this episode of The Best of Us, we spoke to Dr. David Pinder about the challenges he has faced, and progress he has made in carrying out his charge of ensuring that leaders are prepared at each stage of their career with the full complement of skills and capacities necessary to guarantee student and school success. He shared his thoughts on a wide range of topics including the levers for empowering teachers, how to create a culture of innovation, the importance of creating professional learning opportunities that are directly related to what teachers ask for, how retention has become the new recruitment at DCPS, and more.
S1/E6: Designing High Impact Teacher Preparation Programs with Dr. Karen DeMoss of Prepared to Teach
In this episode of The Best Of Us, we sat down with Dr. Karen Demoss, Executive Director of Prepared To Teach. We started out discussing the barriers to high quality teacher preparation, the misconceptions in understanding student work, and the importance of seeing students struggle via local teacher preparation programs rather than just thinking about it in the classroom.
Karen then went on to share her thoughts on key considerations in designing new teacher induction programs, why co-teaching is such an effective way to grow aspiring teachers, and advice on how to maximize the impact of co-teaching.
S1/E5: Teacher Mindsets for Serving All Students with Lacey Robinson of UnboundEd
How can school leaders demonstrate their belief in their teachers? What support do educators need to feel good in the day-to-day, and stay in the profession? What assumptions must change for leaders to provide effective professional learning? How can educators use their time more effectively to drive towards better performance and equity for all students?
We discuss these questions and more with Lacey Robinson, President and CEO of UnboundEd, an education organization that provides free, standards-aligned resources and immersive training for teachers and leaders in pursuit of equity. Robinson has more than 20 years in education as an educator, teacher, principal, and staff development specialist with a focus on literacy, equity and school leadership.
S1/E4: How to Build and Sustain an Impactful Instructional Coaching Program with Fairfax County Public Schools
How do you align strategy, activities and reporting for over 100 coaches across 89 schools? Where do principals fit into the success of a district-wide coaching program? How do you evaluate coaching’s impact year over year? What does a strong pipeline of instructional coach candidates look like? What are the pros and cons of instructional coaching as a pathway to district level leadership positions?
We discuss these questions and more with Michelle Lis, Coordinator, Instructional Coaching and Teacher Leadership at Fairfax County Public Schools. Michelle has 24 years experience in education as a teacher, Instructional Coach, Educational Specialist and Coordinator. She leads the FCPS Instructional Coaching program which includes 106 elementary and secondary instructional coaches.
S1/E3: Starting and Evolving a Comprehensive New Teacher Induction Program
What is the impact of early-career support on overall teacher retention? What considerations go into pairing veteran mentors with new-to-the-classroom mentees? How do great teacher-mentors bring out the best in their colleagues? Which supports do new teachers value most? What are the indicators that an induction program is working?
We explore these topics and more with Tonya Dixon, professional learning specialist at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD and director of the district’s new teacher induction program, one of the largest in the country. Tonya has held various leadership positions at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD over the past 14 years, and taught at the district for 10 years prior.
S1/E2: Getting Instructional Coaches to Think Like Scientists with Dr. Jim Knight
How has the role of the instructional coach changed in the last couple of years? What can we learn from thinking about the concept of task conflict vs. personal conflict? What can instructional coaches in the United States learn from coaches in other countries? How do we create an environment that promotes learning and not control? How do we change the dominant model of professional development from “change happens from the outside in” to “change happens from the inside out?”
We discuss these questions and more with founding senior partner of the Instructional Coaching Group and research associate at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning Dr. Jim Knight. Jim has spent more than two decades studying professional learning and instructional coaching. He has written or co-authored several books on the topic, including: Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction and Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction.
S1/E1: Elevating School-based Professional Learning with Joellen Killion
Why is it important to engage school-based educators in solving the problems they face? How do we honor the expertise of our teachers, and shift the mindset from professional learning as something done to people to a shared responsibility? What are the obstacles we need to overcome to elevate school-based professional learning?
We discuss these questions and more with the author of “Elevate School-Based Professional Learning” Joellen Killion. Joellen is a senior advisor to Learning Forward and served for many years as the association’s deputy executive director. As senior advisor, she leads initiatives related to the link between professional development and student learning. She led the most recent revision of the Standards for Professional Learning, and has extensive experience in planning, design, implementation, and evaluation of professional learning at the school, system, and state/provincial levels.
Killion is the author or co-author of numerous books, including The Feedback Process: Transforming Feedback for Professional Learning; Assessing Impact: Evaluating Professional Learning; The Learning Educator: A New Era for Professional Learning. Joellen’s newest book, Elevate School-Based Professional Learning will be released on January 5, 2023.