Friday, August 27, 2010

Why You Should Be Interested In The New Teacher Evaluation Process

An Opinion Piece by Dr. Robin Boltz, NCSLMA Secretary

Last year my district was abuzz about the new teacher evaluation process from DPI. There was extensive professional development on the instrument and an equal amount of uncertainty. When the doors opened this year, the uncertainty was still there. For some of us in districts where library positions are being cut, welcome to our world!

Okay--be honest: raise your hand if you have read (or browsed through) the new teacher evaluation process handbook from DPI. Just how familiar are you with the new criteria that administrators will use to gauge the efficacy of classroom instruction? Yes, I know the PDF is over fifty pages long and we’re all busy. But I’m also of the opinion that DPI has handed those of us in the library a present that should have been delivered with virtual wrapping paper and bow.

For those of you not familiar with the new standards, here are the five main strands (if you are familiar, bear with me for the next couple of paragraphs): 1) Teachers demonstrate leadership; 2) Teachers establish a respectful environment for a diverse population of students; 3) Teachers know the content they teach; 4) Teachers facilitate learning for their students; 5) Teachers reflect on their practice. If you are National Board Certified, or have looked into Board certification, then you’ve been down this road before.

The following quotes directly from the teacher evaluation handbook: “According to the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards Commission, the different demands on 21st century education dictate new roles for teachers in their classrooms and schools. The following define what teachers need to know and do to teach students in the 21st century.

1) Leadership among the staff and with the administration is shared in order to bring consensus and common, shared ownership of the vision and purpose of the work of the school. Teachers are valued for the contributions they make to their classrooms and the school.

2) Teachers make the content they teach engaging, relevant, and meaningful to students’ lives.

3) Teachers can no longer cover material; they, along with their students, uncover solutions. They teach existing core content that is revised to include skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and information and communications technology literacy.

4) In their classrooms, teachers facilitate instruction encouraging all student to use 21st century skills so they discover how to learn, innovate, collaborate, and communicate their ideas.

5) Subjects and related projects are integrated among disciplines and involve relationships with the home and community.

6) Teachers are reflective about their practice and include assessments that are authentic and structured and demonstrate student understanding.

7) Teachers demonstrate the value of lifelong learning and encourage their students to learn and grow.”

Let’s pick out some core concepts here: leadership, relevance, critical thinking, problem solving, information and communications technology literacy, innovate, collaborate, communicate, reflection, authentic assessment, lifelong learning. Is it just me or does this language seem remarkably similar to IMPACT and our own MCPAI? My somewhat belabored point here is that many of the skills that teachers are being asked to embrace and demonstrate, and those they will now be critically evaluated on, are those that we are already doing and facilitating.

For those of us in districts where library positions are being cut, the new teacher evaluation is a marvelous advocacy tool. It’s our chance to stand up and say, “ As the nature of information and the tools for its retrieval change, so the position of the librarian has also changed. We are no longer ‘keepers of the books.’ Our role is as positive change agent for 21st century information literacy skills.” In other words, to stand up and say, “This is why you need us now more than ever!”

Kelly Brannock, our NCSLMA President and I will be presenting a session on this topic at the upcoming conference in November. It’s tentatively titled either“10 Reasons Why You Should Be Interested In The New Teacher Process” or “Ways to Leverage the New Teacher Evaluation Instrument to Advocate for Your Library.” If you are interested in the topic, please join us. If you are already doing this, please come to share your specifics with others; we’re planning a very collaborative and interactive session!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Racing to the Top: Will You Be in the Clouds?

With the announcement that NC has just received a federal grant for school reform in the amount of $400 million, it's important to understand what this means for North Carolina, our students, and our teachers.

You can wade through the 271 pages of the narrative application, June 2010, if you want to get the whole feel for the proposal: the standards, assessments, data systems, professional development, closing the achievement gap.

But the pages that caught my eye and made me think about my role in this race were pages 27 - 29 of the document. This is where the NC PK-12 Education Technology Cloud is visually represented and outlined. (If you're not familiar with cloud computing, read more from Wes Fryar or David Warlick.)

The K-12 Education Cloud "will be used to deliver statewide access to the major digital resources and tools necessary to support RttT initiatives." (p. 28) According to the plan, this means online resources and tools to insure EQUITABLE ACCESS. It means professional development. It means SHARING of resources across classrooms, schools, and districts. It means Web 2.0 tools. It means digital learning and video streaming. It means CONNECTING.

All of this improved technology supports the four main initiatives of the RttT: 1) standards and assessments; 2) data systems to support instruction; 3) great teachers and leaders; and 4) turning around the lowest achieving schools.

When referring to the lowest performing schools, it was noted: "In addition, it is essential that students in these schools have equitable access to technology and to teachers with the expertise to use it well, to guarantee that they experience the full range of technology uses that their peers in high-achieving schools receive." (p. 29)

Teachers with the EXPERTISE to use it WELL. Are you prepared to be the teacher with the expertise? Are you prepared to work with your fellow teachers to insure that they are experts as well? What do you see as your role in your classroom and in your school in the race to the top?

Will you have your head in the CLOUDS or will it be stuck in the SAND?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Let's Get Visible, Visible!

In the fall of 1981, I was an avid reader, taking eighth grade by storm, on a mission toward my goal in life: becoming a school librarian. I just didn't know it then.

I could be seen in our small school library, thumbing through that wonderful card catalog. Remember back in the day when they still taught the card catalog -- subject, author, title cards -- and the oh so many skills-in-isolation lessons. I was brilliant at using an index in any reference book. I was a mighty fine almanac user. I was the best map reader in my class, loving the atlas the best. (Look at all the great places you could imagine yourself to visit!) I always had a book, fiction or nonfiction, possibly a volume of the encyclopedia, with me. (Okay, I was a geek!) I was always seen trying to get more information, out of my teachers or out of some book. I was a highly visible student motivated by the quest for information!

I really have absolutely no idea what my middle school librarian did, though. I remember she was nice. I remember she said my name sort of fancy like: Dee-onna. I remember her sitting at a classroom-type desk in our library. Honestly, though, I don't even remember the lessons she taught us, and I definitely never remember seeing her outside the school library.

As a school librarian now, I wonder if this teacher of thirty plus years ago was visible to her colleagues at all. Was she big in her professional association? Was she part of her school's leadership team, budget team, school improvement team, or the equivalent at the time?

Did she move beyond the walls of the media center, do poetry breaks in the hallways, collaborate and team teach in core classrooms? Was she visible in the cafeteria or in the carpool line booktalking with students? Could she be seen at PTA meetings, department/grade level meetings, or athletic events? Did she plan, instruct and access students? Did she facilitate workshops for colleagues, present at district and state meetings, or provide parent resource workshops?

Was she visible to her students, teachers, parents, business community? Was she VISIBLE to her PRINCIPAL?

In her August 6th post, Kelly Brannock quoted Gary Hartzell -- success flows to the visible -- and offered a challenge for us all to SHOW how the school library is essential. If you're not up to the challenge, if you choose to remain incognito in the shadows of school libraries past, then you'll have to accept the consequences of remaining in the dark (job cuts, devalued library programs, lower student achievement).

But if you choose to be VISIBLE, to step up to the challenge, to make the hard decisions and the big changes that will impact your teaching and student learning, then go boldly, go brightly, go BIG and be VISIBLE!

We're right there with you!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Listserv problems - Tuesday, Aug 17

The NCSLMA listserv will be down for 4-6 hours today while we transition to a new web hosting provider. We apologize for any inconvenience!

Friday, August 13, 2010

NCSLMA website newsflash

On behalf of our webmaster, Deb Christensen, here's an important message about our NCSLMA website:

NCSLMA is transferring our site to a new host server. There may be a short interruption in service in the next week. Our domain ( will remain the same and you should not notice any changes at this time with this switch. Thanks for your patience as we attempt to improve our services. Please pass the word to your colleagues who may not be subscribed to our listserv.

If all goes as planned the switch will be barely noticeable. Also, if any members have scripting experience and would like to help with the website, please contact me. Good luck with the new school year!



NCSLMA Past President and Webmaster

Director-Elect Region IV AASL Affiliate Assembly

Smart and helpful!

The countdown is on for the start of a shiny new school year! Are you ready for an exciting year of teaching and learning in a 21st century learning environment?

As I've mentioned before, I subscribe to the NC Teachers Message, a bi-weekly update of news and highlights from the State Superintendent's office. Over the years I've found this to be a very useful source of information. It often gives a heads-up on new programs and issues that would otherwise take time to trickle down to the faculty meeting level -- plus it gives me a great way to "be in the know". It's easy to look smart and helpful with a resource like this in your back pocket! If you don't already, I encourage you to subscribe to this important bi-weekly listserv.

In case you've missed it, here are some important snippets from the latest issue of the NC Teachers Message concerning assessment, Race to the Top, poetry events, advocacy, blended learning, and the upcoming Elementary School conference:

Computerized Adaptive Testing - In the last year, the use of Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT), a testing system that provides a customized assessment for each student based upon his/her level of knowledge and skills, has become a subject of many state and national conversations. As states seek to provide more and better data to enhance classroom instruction, the CAT seems to be a compelling tool. Data from CAT could provide more precise information than traditional tests about which concepts a student has mastered versus those for which the student needs additional instruction.

The multi-state SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium - of which North Carolina is a governing state - has placed Computerized Adaptive Testing as a central component of its proposed assessment system for the Race to the Top Assessment Grant. If the grant proposal is accepted, member states will have the option to implement the CAT system fully online in the 2014-15 school year or use a comparable paper and pencil assessment. Starting in the 2016-17 school year, all member states will have to use the fully online system. The NCDPI released a report to the Board that discusses the benefits and challenges related to implementing a Computerized Adaptive Testing system in North Carolina. It can be found on the ACRE website under Resources and Publications at

Visit NC FALCON – What better time to visit NC FALCON then the beginning of a brand new school year? The North Carolina Formative Assessment Learning Community's Online Network (NC FALCON), available online at , contains online modules focused on helping teachers learn how to effectively implement formative assessment to enhance student learning. Formative assessment provides the base or foundation for instruction and learning and should occur more often than any other type of assessment. If you haven’t heard how your school will implement NC FALCON, ask your principal for information regarding your district’s and school’s implementation plans.

America's Legislators Back to School Program - America's Legislators Back to School Program, sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures, will be held Sept. 20-24. Teachers are encouraged to extend invitations to their local representatives to visit and talk with students about the legislative process and what it's like to be a state legislator: the processes, the pressures, and the debate – the negotiation and compromise that are the fabric of representative democracy.

Elementary School Conference Scheduled - The Seventh Annual Elementary School Conference, “Tools for Building a Better Tomorrow,” will be held Oct. 24-26 at the Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh. Conference strands include quality teaching across the curriculum, responsive teaching and promoting global understanding. The registration fee is $150 for NCAEE members and $175 for non-members. There is an additional charge for pre-conference sessions. There will be no onsite registration. For a complete agenda and registration information, please visit

Blended Learning - Learn NC has just published an article about blended learning in its education reference. It explains the characteristics, history, features, and benefits of this teaching and learning method. At the bottom of the article are links to LEARN NC's other blended learning resources, including a guide to implementing blended learning in the classroom, and online courses that teach various blended learning principles.

Poetry Out Loud - The North Carolina Arts Council is inviting high school teachers to become a part of Poetry Out Loud, the national poetry recitation competition for high school students. For the sixth great year, North Carolina high school students will be memorizing poetry to recite in front of friends, family, teachers and total strangers—and teachers are an important part of the program. Students can choose from an amazing selection of poems that can be found online at, along with lots of other information about the project. Teachers who would like to participate in Poetry Out Loud should review the information and fill out the registration form at by Friday, Sept. 17.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The best of times, the worst of times

It’s tax-free weekend in North Carolina and kids, anxious parents, and teachers are hitting the stores to stock up on binders, bookbags, and back-to-school clothes. The lines are long at the Apple Store this weekend, the malls are jammed, and the newspaper is full of sales circulars. For most of us, school is only a few weeks away. What an exciting time!

On the other hand, if you read the newspaper, The Friday Report, or the State Board of Education blog you learn that North Carolina is among the states facing the worst budget shortfalls next year – a projected shortfall of over $3 billion, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only California and Texas are in worse financial shape. We lost school library positions this year in my district. I hate, in fact I avoid, thinking about what next year will bring. I hear the words, "falling off the cliff" applied to next year's budget scenario and I worry about what this will mean for our profession and the impact it will have on our students.

Now add to this strange mix: a new Teacher Evaluation instrument that emphasizes 21st century skills & knowledge, the introduction of new Essential Standards replacing the familiar Standard Course of Study in every curriculum area (including the integration of information and technology skills), and the possibility of Race To the Top funding with all the strings attached.

What’s your take on this challenging, confusing convergence of circumstances? In my mind it means no more status quo. I’m thinking hard about what it means to model 21st century skills and knowledge. I’m drawing on my PLN to develop resources for 21st century learning. I’m making plans to use technology in new ways to promote collaboration, new communication models, and critical thinking. Most of all, I’m keenly aware that I have to: 1) be on top of my game, and 2) make others aware of my efforts, especially when it comes to my impact on student learning. It’s not enough to do good work behind the scenes. I can no longer acquiesce to the stereotypes about librarians, the warm fuzzy library memories that so many share, and the outdated ideas that the library is just for quiet reading and checking out books. I'm not your mother's school librarian -- why, I'm not even my adult son's school librarian. No more status quo.

This year, a year of profound change and challenge, things will be different. I’m taking some advice from the comments of Gary Hartzell on the Blue Skunk Blog post “Wisdom from Hartzell and Professional Death Wishes”. Hartzell says that success flows to the visible. It’s up to me to show that the school library is essential – to teachers, as a partner in data-driven instruction, to administrators as a supportive model for 21st century teaching and learning at every level, to students as THE place to engage in exciting learning activities, and to parents and the community as the 21st century learning environment their children deserve. Big ideas, big plans, and let's face it -- a big challenge.

Chances are I may not have a adequate budget or an assistant to share the day-to-day work load this year. In fact, I’ll probably be doing more with fewer resources, just like every other teacher at my school. What I DO have, however, are personal resources -- the vision for what I need to accomplish, a commitment to 21st century teaching and learning, the technology skills to support my goals, a great PLN to propel me forward, and the ingenuity to embrace a new kind of practice.

The new school year is almost here. It’s exciting and scary. The stakes have never been higher, but I’m staring straight into the future. No more status quo. What will you be doing differently this school year?

Sunday, August 1, 2010