Real-Time Professional Learning When You Need It, Where You Want It

Great News— Text4Teachers is back! This MCESA initiative sends teachers a text message giving short advice related to the Learning Observation Instrument. Check out this recent Text4Teachers message:

"Today, as you are providing opportunities for student to student interactions ensure you are using precise academic vocabulary, instead of words like "this" or  "that", to solidify students' understanding of the content.  Students will be more likely to use the correct academic vocabulary appropriately to deepen their learning. How will you ensure you are using explicit academic vocabulary to deepen student learning?"

Sign up today and start receiving real-time professional learning on the go.

Click here to sign up.

Principal Finds Success by Implementing ‘REIL’ Change

Norwood3.jpg

Phoenix, AZ—Bush Elementary School Principal Lisa Norwood believes it’s time for a change in the Arizona public school system and she intends to see students at her school receive the quality education all children deserve.

Prior to her arrival at Bush Elementary in the Roosevelt School District, the school received a D rating for three consecutive years.

The Roosevelt District is one of seven Arizona school districts participating in the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation (REIL-TNG) initiative.

REIL-TNG is a five-year initiative being implemented by the Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) with the aim of improving the quality of education for Arizona’s students.

“Last year we made significant growth and came within one point of a B,” Norwood said.

The Opportunity

Norwood first encountered the REIL-TNG initiative in 2012. She was an assistant principal in the Roosevelt School District and saw REIL-TNG as an opportunity to improve instruction and leadership on her campus.

“We have generations of students who were not taught well,” Norwood said. “Yes, we want kids to achieve but what we really want is for kids to learn.”

Important Understanding

When she took over as principal at Bush Elementary, Norwood realized that the biggest challenge was helping teachers understand the Learning Observation Instrument (LOI). She wants her staff to understand it’s not just about evaluation but it’s also a tool to help teachers improve their professional practice.

“The rubric is just part of what teachers should be doing every day,” Norwood said. “It’s just good teaching.”

Norwood also feels the instrument helps her provide more structured feedback to her staff and offer them a visible pathway to improve their instruction. 

“As a leader, I’m thankful for the LOI,” Norwood said. “It gives me a leverage point and it shows where we are and what we need to do. I think that’s what is going to help us get to where we need to be.”

Making Progress

In order to assist her staff in finding success with the REIL-TNG initiative, Norwood implemented mandatory professional development every Monday after school. By March 2013, teachers at Bush Elementary School had already participated in 50 hours of training. Some teachers have even sought out additional support to make sure they were doing everything they could to ensure they were meeting the new requirements. Norwood plans to continue that level of professional development in the spring semester of 2015.

“This is what needs to be happening. If you want to become an effective teacher, these are the things we need to be doing.”

A combination of hard work, creative problem solving, and the structured plan provided by the REIL-TNG initiative have helped Norwood make progress at Bush Elementary.

Moving Forward

Now that the REIL-TNG grant is in its third year, Norwood feels that more educators have embraced it as a tool to help them grow and improve. She understands that some veteran teachers have not had the chance to develop their skills in the classroom in the past and hopes to help those teachers find success in the future.

“With the LOI, we have the tools for that now,” Norwood said. “As a leader, I’m thankful for the LOI. It gives me a leverage point and it shows where we are and what we need to do. I think that’s what is going to help us get to where we need to be.

Not all teachers have been open to the changes under the REIL-TNG initiative and some have left the field but Norwood said some of those departures were necessary.

“It’s really changing what’s happening at these schools,” Norwood said.  “Change is slow, but it is happening.”

For more information about MCESA and the REIL-TNG initiative, visit the MCESA website.

With the Right Tools, Challenges Lead to Growth

Phoenix, AZ—There’s no question that the first few years in the classroom are difficult for new teachers. But with the right tools and guidance, one Roosevelt District teacher says the most challenging moments have also been the most rewarding.

“The old adage says if you find something you love, it’s not work. That’s what it feels like to me,” said Elizabeth Sousa, a third grade teacher at Cesar Chavez Community School in Phoenix.

After graduating from the Arizona State University elementary education program, Sousa launched her career during the first year of the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation (REIL-TNG) initiative. 

REIL-TNG is a five-year initiative being implemented by the Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) with the aim of improving the quality of education for Arizona’s students.

The initiative, which implemented a rigorous, fair, and transparent evaluation process for teachers, also provides a vast amount of resources, tools, and professional development to help teachers develop their abilities.

“I think all of the professional development offered by MCESA, whether it’s in-person in my district or the online tools and videos are very helpful,” Sousa said.

During Sousa’s second year the initiative moved towards linking the evaluation process to performance-based compensation.

“When it was announced that we were working towards performance pay I wasn’t too nervous. I felt like I knew the observation tool well enough,” Sousa said.

Teachers and administrators have the full support of trained field specialists, peer evaluators, and coaches through MCESA and Sousa felt that the support she had received had amply prepared her for the next step.

“They’ve offered professional development about the pre-conference to make sure you’re prepared and have everything you need in order to get the score that you want.”

Even though she had only been in the classroom for two years, Sousa felt her education and the professional development she’s received have given her the confidence she needs to be successful.

“I thought ‘Well, my students are going to do what they’re going to do and I’m going to do what I normally do,” Sousa said. “I didn’t feel like I needed to change anything.”

In fact, Sousa, who is currently working towards her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at ASU, feels that the LOI is helping her further develop her abilities as a teacher. 

“I definitely think the observation tool has helped me improve my lesson planning. I’ve also noticed that when I plan my instruction that way, the students perform better,” Sousa said.

Every teacher loves those moments in the classroom when a lesson plays out perfectly and new information clicks with students. Sousa said she’s also found great satisfaction in those difficult lessons when students have trouble grasping new concepts.

“Now I have to problem solve and figure out what went wrong. Or maybe nothing went wrong and it went exactly the way you planned it but they still don’t get it. Then you can problem solve with your team or your coaches,” Sousa said.

In addition to the support she’s received from peer evaluators and coaches, Sousa said she’s also found the online resources provided by MCESA helpful in developing her skills. From online professional learning modules to a comprehensive video bank of successful classroom instruction, Sousa has found the resources she needs to help her students succeed.

“It just depends on what format you like better or how much time you have. If you only have five minutes you can always watch a video,” Sousa said.

Sousa is among the many inspired teachers who are up to the challenge of providing a great education for Arizona students and finds joy in the career she’s chosen.

“It just feels like such a privilege. It’s a blast every single day that I get to hang out with these independent little thinkers who are so funny, so smart, and so responsible. I feel really lucky.”

For more information about MCESA and the REIL-TNG initiative, visit the website.

5 Years of Change Yields Positive Results, Promising Future

(MCESA File Photo) REIL alliance schools have made significant progress in developing effective educators and as a result they have increased student achievement.

(MCESA File Photo) REIL alliance schools have made significant progress in developing effective educators and as a result they have increased student achievement.

Phoenix—Five Maricopa County school districts set out on a mission five years ago to improve educator effectiveness and increase student achievement. Today those districts are demonstrating positive results and have a defined vision moving forward.

In 2010, Maricopa County Education Service Agency was awarded a Teacher Incentive Fund grant by the U.S. Department of Education to implement the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership (REIL) initiative in five county school districts.

Prior to her district’s participation in the REIL initiative, Tolleson Elementary School District Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hightower recalls a feeling of disenchantment when she learned that most of the nation’s teachers were rated as effective while student achievement was chronically low.

“Changing a system is a monumental task and it requires a brave group of leaders committed to making a difference for future generations,” said Maricopa County Assistant Superintendent of Human Capital Management Systems Dr. Lori Renfro.  “We have those brave leaders in the REIL alliance and they will continue to improve the instructional environment in our county’s schools."

When Hightower learned about the REIL initiative she strongly supported making the transition in her district.

“We knew that with this partnership that we would be working collaboratively to develop these instruments and there would be a lot of support systems,” Hightower said. “We felt it was the right match.”

The first few years were challenging but Hightower felt the need for change outweighed the difficulty of implementing new measures in order to guarantee her students benefit from effective instruction.

“We are doing this because we want students to achieve high academic excellence,” Hightower said. “That’s why we do the work that we do. That’s our mission.”

In the Nadaburg School District, Superintendent Ben Goodman also recognized the need for a new direction in his district and was equally prepared for the challenge.

“When the grant first started here, there was some initial resistance because it was such a drastic departure from the traditional method of evaluating teachers,” Goodman said.

Goodman feels that teachers in his district have truly benefited from the clear expectations established by the Learning Observation Instrument (LOI), a rigorous evaluation tool that establishes a new level of fairness by bringing transparency to the evaluation system.

“We can pretty clearly document that there is a relationship between the LOI scores and student achievement,” Goodman said. “As the LOI scores go up, student performance is going up. There seems to be a direct correlation.”

The Tolleson District has witnessed the same measured growth. Sheely Farms Elementary School was honored with the Silver Level Award from the Beat the Odds Institute this year for demonstrating student achievement and the district has seen significant growth in its rating from the Arizona Department of Education.

“We haven’t achieved A-rated schools yet, but we definitely have increased achievement and we’ve moved from C to B-rated schools,” Hightower said.

Educators have also benefited from customized professional development and clearly defined career paths and incentives. Districts participating in the REIL initiative can see a brighter future for both educators and students.

“I know that it has changed practice for the principals, it has changed practice for the teachers, and it has changed the conversation for the teachers,” Hightower said.

REIL alliance districts are committed to sustaining the progress they’ve made and intend to continue to implement the elements of the initiative. Partner districts have also signed on for a possible 1-year, no-cost extension pending approval from the U.S. Department of Education.

In addition, MCESA professionals continue their mission to improve educator effectiveness with seven other county school districts participating in the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation (REIL-TNG) initiative, which began in 2012.

For more information about the REIL or REIL-TNG initiatives, visit the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership website.

 

Local Schools Seeking and Rewarding Top Tier Talent

Maricopa County Spotlight Schools Gearing Up for a Big Push Forward

Phoenix—Maricopa County school districts are preparing to place the spotlight on several schools over the coming academic year.

Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) is working with local school districts to identify a group of high-need schools that will carry the Spotlight School designation. The districts are members of the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation (REIL-TNG) program—a five-year initiative aimed at increasing educator effectiveness.

Spotlight Schools

The Spotlight School program is part of the 5-year REIL-TNG initiative and will help districts attract, develop and retain the most effective educators.  The initiative is being implemented in seven county school districts by MCESA and is funded by a U.S. Department of EducationTeacher Incentive Fund grant. 

“These are schools in our county that have great potential and have made strong gains over the past three years,” said Dr. Lori Renfro, Assistant Superintendent of Human Capital Management Systems. “Over the course of the next two years we will work closely with our partner districts to focus our combined resources and talent to give these schools the extra push they need to succeed.”

Recruitment and Reward

This spring the spotlight schools are employing some innovative incentives in order to recruit top-tier educators. The schools are seeking educators with the state-recognized rating of “Effective” or “Highly Effective” to work in these schools.

Educators who transfer to spotlight schools will receive a competitive base salary structure, a $3,000 yearly stipend, the possibility of a multi-year contract and Highly Effective and Effective status protection for three years.

“This is an incredible opportunity for any educator who would like to elevate their status as a professional by becoming a Master Educator,” said REIL-TNG Director Dr. Janice Johnson. “There are great incentives in place because we want to attract the best talent for these schools.”

As part of this initiative, educators can take advantage of new career opportunities by becoming In-Demand Teachers, Master Educators, Turnaround Assistant Principals and Turnaround Principals.

Rigor, Collaboration are Key to Effective Education

Magnet Traditional Elementary School Principal Adrian Walker believes the first steps in creating a  strong learning environment are to "know your students and be adequately prepared." 

Magnet Traditional Elementary School Principal Adrian Walker believes the first steps in creating a  strong learning environment are to "know your students and be adequately prepared." 

Phoenix—When school communities are faced with chronic issues like poverty, it is challenging to identify the perfect strategy to create a thriving learning environment. But Magnet Traditional Elementary School Principal Adrian Walker believes two key elements have helped his educators become more effective.

Located in the Phoenix Elementary School District, Walker’s school is one of 53 schools in the 7 school districts participating in the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation (REIL-TNG) program being implemented by Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA).

“We’re a Title I school in the inner city and at the end of the day I want to make sure that whatever instruction I’m providing for these students is of the highest quality,” Walker said.

Walker has been the school’s leader for the past seven years and for the past four years the school has been an “A” school, as rated by the Arizona Department of Education.

“Mr. Walker is a passionate leader and he is truly committed to improving his teachers’ instructional effectiveness,” said MCESA Field Specialist Denise McGloughlin.  “Adrian’s proactive approach has led to a laser-like focus on increasing student achievement at his school.”

It would be difficult to summarize everything successful school leaders do to create a strong culture of achievement, but Walker suggests the first steps in building a successful learning community are to “know your students and be adequately prepared.” To achieve those goals, Walker maintains a strict adherence to the REIL-TNG initiative and fosters a strong team environment.

When the district first implemented the initiative, Walker said he felt right at home with the rigorous evaluation elements in the Learning Observation Instrument (LOI).

“When the LOI was presented to me, I could not believe it because it was almost like the people who developed it had read my mind. It was everything that we had been working on for the past four years,” Walker said. “The instrument is a fantastic instrument.”

Data has been a driving force in the school’s success and is what helps Walker and his teams understand the educational needs of their students and it’s been a key focus over the past seven years. 

“At the beginning of every year we use the data from the previous year to identify the areas where we were less proficient,” Walker said.

Professional development and team support is structured by that data and it becomes an ongoing effort throughout the year. Walker holds regular Collaborative Team Meetings with Instruction and Enrichment Specialist Cody Greene and his staff to monitor the progress teams are making in the identified focus areas.

Walker meets regularly with Instruction and Enrichment Specialist Cody Greene and educator teams to review data and Educator Goal Plans to ensure teams are on track.

Walker meets regularly with Instruction and Enrichment Specialist Cody Greene and educator teams to review data and Educator Goal Plans to ensure teams are on track.

“I feel like the staff likes it because they get the opportunity to collaborate,” Walker said. “I’ve seen the biggest possible impact in math because everyone is holding each other accountable.”

This year the teams are focusing on the Authentic Engagement, Critical Thinking, and Conceptual Understanding elements of the LOI.

Using the data to craft individual Educator Goal Plans (EGP), another important aspect of the REIL-TNG, has also had a positive impact on the environment for Magnet Traditional educators.

“I’ve tried to make sure that they embed it in their instruction on a more frequent basis and not just the times during the year when they are evaluated,” Walker said. 

The high level of rigor at Magnet Traditional and strict adherence to the REIL-TNG initiative has had a measurable impact on educator effectiveness.

“I really do think that if the leadership really encourages that these elements be practiced with fidelity there’s no way that there won’t be an increase in student achievement,” Walker said.

U.S. Department of Education Officials Visit Maricopa County Schools

(From Left) Cordova Middle School Principal Dr. Sharon Spearman, MCESA Field Specialist Amanda Jelleson, U.S. Department of Education TIF Program Manager Dr. Vicki Robinson, Chief Deputy Superintendent of MCESA Kristine Morris, and U.S. Department of Education Teacher Quality Programs Director Venetia Richardson tour the Cordova Middle School campus in Phoenix.

(From Left) Cordova Middle School Principal Dr. Sharon Spearman, MCESA Field Specialist Amanda Jelleson, U.S. Department of Education TIF Program Manager Dr. Vicki Robinson, Chief Deputy Superintendent of MCESA Kristine Morris, and U.S. Department of Education Teacher Quality Programs Director Venetia Richardson tour the Cordova Middle School campus in Phoenix.

Phoenix—Officials with the U.S. Department of Education visited two Maricopa County schools on Friday, March 6, 2015, to learn about two innovative programs that are helping school districts improve the effectiveness of educators and retain their best talent.

Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) is implementing two programs funded by U.S. Department of Education Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grants. Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership (REIL) and Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation (REIL-TNG) are groundbreaking programs designed to improve educator effectiveness and implement innovative human capital management systems.

U.S. Department of Education Teacher Quality Programs Director Venetia Richardson and TIF Program Manager Vicki Robinson visited Garfield Elementary School in the Phoenix Elementary School District and Cordova Middle School in the Alhambra School District to speak with district superintendents and school administrators about how the TIF programs and the progress that has been made at their schools.

“The school visits were very insightful, especially the conversations about how data is used to make human capital management decisions for teacher and principal placement and professional development,” said TIF Program Manager Vicki Robinson. “It was good to hear that the observation instruments are improving instructional practice and educator effectiveness,” Robinson said.

The REIL program was launched in 2010 and will conclude this year and the REIL-TNG program commenced in 2012 and will conclude in 2017.

“Alliance districts have made tremendous progress with the retention and development of highly effective educators and we expect to see a continued upward trend in student achievement as a result,” said Chief Deputy Superintendent of MCESA Kristine Morris.

For more information about the REIL or REIL-TNG initiatives, visit the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership website.

 

MCESA Hosts Teacher Incentive Fund Western Region Meeting

Representatives from 14 Teacher Incentive Fund grantee organizations in the western United States participate in a two-day conference at the Maricopa County Education Service Agency in Phoenix.

Representatives from 14 Teacher Incentive Fund grantee organizations in the western United States participate in a two-day conference at the Maricopa County Education Service Agency in Phoenix.

Phoenix—Education professionals and experts from across the western United States gathered for a two-day conference in Phoenix, Arizona, last week to share innovative ideas and best practices for education reform.

Representatives from 14 Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grantee organizations from Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado met with U.S. Department of Education officials and education experts at the Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) office in Phoenix March 5-6, 2015.

“The grantees worked in collaboration to identify issues of mutual challenge, provide a range of potential strategies and activities for meeting those challenges, and describe innovative approaches to share beyond the regions,” said TIF Program Manager Dr. Vicki Robinson.

The department of education began awarding TIF grants in 2006 to assist school districts and education organizations with development and implementation of performance-based compensation systems and programs to improve educator effectiveness in high-need schools. 

MCESA was first awarded a TIF 3 grant in 2010 to implement the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership program. In 2012 the agency was awarded a TIF 4 grant for the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation (REIL-TNG) program.

“The grants have helped MCESA empower our partner school districts by giving them the resources and tools they need to increase educator effectiveness and to retain the best teachers,” said Chief Deputy Superintendent of MCESA Kristine Morris.

MCESA serves six county school districts participating in the REIL program and seven districts participating in REIL-TNG program.

For more information about MCESA’s work to improve educator effectiveness, visit the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership website.

 

Federal Case Study Highlights MCESA Peer Evaluator System

A U.S. Department of Education case study suggests that the Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) Peer Evaluator program has contributed to improving educator evaluations and teaching in county schools.

“Based on what we have learned from the Maricopa County program, we believe that other TIF grantees and school districts should consider peer evaluation as a potential contribution to effective educator evaluation,” the study states.

In 2010, MCESA was awarded a TIF grant to implement Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, a five-year program designed to help four school districts attract, place, retain, support, and develop effective educators.

MCESA was awarded a second TIF grant in 2012 to implement Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation (REIL-TNG), a second five-year program to improve educator effectiveness in seven county school districts.

The REIL and REIL-TNG programs have been recognized for their innovative approach of employing and training peer evaluators to perform teacher evaluations and provide professional development opportunities.

“As practiced in the Maricopa County TIF districts, peer evaluation has the potential to support more rigorous performance evaluation as well as improve teaching,” the study says.

Click here to download“Peer Evaluation of Teachers in Maricopa County’s Teacher Incentive Fund Program.”

'When a Student Falls, We Pick Them Back Up'

Wilma Rice, a teacher at Maricopa County Regional School District’s (MCRSD) Durango Transitional Learning Center, recently published an inspiring article in the Arizona Republic about the important work being done to serve the county’s  “Opportunity Youth.” 

“We recognize the potential in every youth, regardless of past academic failure,” Rice said.

Read the article here.

MCRSD has been working with Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) to implement the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation(REIL-TNG) program since 2012. REIL-TNG supports MCRSD schools as they attract, place, retain, sustain, and develop effective and highly effective educators.

Chavez Community School Transforms Culture Through Leadership, Instruction [Video]

In 2012, Chavez Community School began implementing the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation (REIL-TNG) program. REIL-TNG is a five-year program funded by a U.S. Department of Education Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant that aims to attract, place, develop, and retain effective educators.

Embedded into the work and in support of her school's REIL-TNG initiative work, Principal Ivette Rodriguez Marquez explains the school community's decision to implement the Leader In Me program to achieve a positive school culture.

For more information about the REIL-TNG program, visit the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership website.

Support, Feedback Led to Professional Growth

Systemic education reform is a complex undertaking and requires dedication and bravery on the part of all educators involved. It takes patience, hard work, and most importantly—time.

Kim Rice, a former special education teacher at Balsz Elementary School, had been teaching for several years when the Balsz Elementary School District began implementing the Rewarding Excellence In Instruction and Leadership (REIL-TNG) program. And despite her experience in the classroom, Rice felt she still needed to improve her skills.

Rice, currently the Education Program Specialist with the Arizona Department of Education, looks favorably upon the three years she spent working to improve her own classroom instruction.

“I was looking for this type of training for myself,” Rice said. “People learn in different ways and if we’re ever going to close the achievement gap, we need to ensure that we’re cutting through to the students’ critical thinking and depth of knowledge.”

REIL-TNG is a five-year initiative being implemented by the Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) with the aim of improving the quality of education for Arizona’s students. As part of the program, teachers are observed and evaluated five times each school year using the Learning Observation Instrument (LOI), a comprehensive rubric designed to help teachers

When the program first began, Rice was working towards her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and had just achieved National Board Certification.

“Three weeks later I had my first observation and I really struggled with it,” Rice said.

Unhappy with the results of that observation, the seasoned teacher decided to work on perfecting that very lesson in order to fully understand how to apply each of the 22 elements in the LOI.

“It took me the first year just to get my feet wet. By the second year, I was about two thirds of the way there with everything. By the third year, everything began to fall into place and I started to see the potential for all the elements in my lessons,” Rice said.

Using a notebook that would steadily grow in size as she added notes and collected reference materials over the next three years, Rice set out to understand her strengths and recognize opportunities for her own development as a teacher.

“I realized I didn’t know my curriculum as deeply as I needed to,” Rice said. “Through each lesson I gave, and each time I was evaluated, it became more and more clear to me what my shortcomings were. I found that some of my routines needed to be adjusted.”

Working closely with her supervisor and her MCESA Peer Evaluator, Lisa Santa Cruz, she began to see improvements not only in her evaluation scores but also in the way her students were learning the material she presented.

“She was extremely receptive to feedback and was truly reflective to questions and accepted offers of additional support,” Santa Cruz said.

It was precisely that receptiveness and reflection that led to Rice’s growth throughout her time working under the REIL-TNG program.

“I think people really need to understand that it’s a process. This is like starting over and thinking of things in a new way,” Rice said.