May 5 I flew to San Antonio, Texas, to attend an Educator Effectiveness Conference sponsored by CCSSO.  I was joined by 4 other Iowans which led to great discussion on the state of education and the trends currently happening.  There are two areas that create spirited discussion – teacher leadership and teacher evaluation.  In the area of teacher leadership, there is much to be said about peer review and coaching as the focus is on: How can we improve the effectiveness of instruction in our classrooms? John Hattie, author of VISIBLE LEARNING, presented specific research-based instructional strategies that have a high effect size when used in our classrooms.  I attended three workshops devoted to this topic and felt that a closer examination and implementation of his strategies has great potential to maximize impact in our instruction.  Sometimes what we think has a great effect size in reality does little to lead our students forward in achievement.

The Iowa group was represented by those who work with pre-service educators, the School Administrators of Iowa, the AEA, and the Iowa Bureau of Educator Effetiveness. It was a great time for our Iowa group to meet and discuss directions in Iowa.

One thing we all agree upon is the complexity of teaching and the difficulty surrounding the evaluation process for teachers.  Much discussion focuses on assessment data but assessments fluctuate based upon the group of students a teacher faces each year.  One year a group can be highly motivated and focused on achievement and the next year a group has multiple behavior issues and home issues that affect progress.  When working with people, there are few consistencies from year to year.  At the middle school level, those inconsistencies manifest themselves from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour.  But those challenges are what has kept me in education for 3 decades.  I love trying to motivate the unmotivated and to bring a spark into the eye of a student whose glazed eyes say, “Just try to get me to learn.”

The Keynote Speaker on Thursday was introduced by Byron Darnall, Bureau Chief for Educator Quality with the Iowa Department of Education.  The keynote speaker was Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 National Teacher of the Year.  Her talk was on being strong enough to make mistakes and learn from them.

It was a worthwhile conference and I look forward to sharing what I learned from the workshops and from the dialogue with our Iowa team.  I appreciated the invitation to attend.