Looking Back, Looking Forward: 24th Legislative District NBCTs Advocate!

National Board Lobby Day

All right!  The legislative session is over!  One huge bright spot?  The maintenance in full of National Board stipends!  It was a hard fought battle, and here in the 24th Legislative District, we did our part.

Some of you joined us recently, and some of you have been with us since the beginning of our National Board Local Action Network last year.  In any case, our advocacy took on many forms this school year and legislative session.  Collectively, our efforts were impressive–thanks to each of you for your work!

We started the year by building relationships with our local lawmakers through inviting legislators to our classrooms.  Representative Kevin Van De Wege, Representative Steve Tharinger, and Senator Jim Hargrove all visited with NBCTs and their students in schools.  As the Peninsula Daily News commented after a visit to NBCT Shannon Lowrie’s class, this “scored a trifecta of legislative visits.”

Then we had some fun at a local screening of the movie Mitchell 20, accompanied by a discussion and writing postcards to legislators.  Community members, a superintendent, a school board member, and teachers from four different school districts all attended this screening!  Special thanks to NBCT Patti Smith, Chimacum EA Vice President, and Todd Miller, Chimacum EA President, on this.

Mitchell 20 Screening and Legislative Post Card Writing

The legislative session was tough. We faced dark times with a thousand dollar reduction from the House, followed by an unbelievable 75% reduction from the Senate Republican budget.

How did 24th District NBCTs respond?

  • Spoke with Rep. Tharinger at a town hall meeting in Quilcene, and with Sen. Hargrove at a Jefferson County Democrats meeting in Chimacum
  • Met with legislators in their offices and on the house and senate floors.  NBCTs Denise Williamson, Quilcene EA; Brian Berg, Sequim EA; John Henry, Port Angeles EA; and Patti Smith and I from the Chimacum EA all traveled to Olympia for this.
  • Testified before the House and Senate Education committees,  and even if it was on other education issues, made sure to put in a good word for National Board Certification!
  • Invited legislators to our classrooms
  • Built community through watching Mitchell 20
  • Wrote a group letter to Senator Hargrove signed by 38 NBCTs from the 24th Legislative District opposing the Senate Republican Budget

We also participated in our outstanding statewide efforts coordinated by Dr. Jim Meadows and Local Action Networks in each legislative district.  What did we do?

  • Sent emails.  Across the state, THOUSANDS of emails, literally, were sent by NBCTs.
  • Made phone calls!  Our statewide effort pretty much shut the legislative switchboard down for a bit on the evening of March 8!
  • Statewide, over 3,100 people signed a petition started by NBCT Krista Calvin, Richland EA.

What response did we get from our actions?  Well, the end result of full support for the National Board program speaks to our advocacy efforts and to the value legislators place on the positive impact of National Board Certification on student learning.

Locally we were heard as well.  Our very own Senator Jim Hargrove proposed an amendment to fully support the National Board program.  When introducing his amendment on the senate floor, he said, “The teachers in my district say that this has made a huge difference in their classrooms.”  Yes, that’s right. Who did he listen to on this issue? Us! You know what that means? We’ve got to stay out there and make our voice heard, because people are paying attention!

Senator Christine Rolfes was another senator that some of us from the 24th district visited.  Her response to Hargove’s National Board amendment?  In the debate, she said, “When will this war on teachers stop?  This is a year when we don’t have to cut their National Board salaries. We don’t have to cut funding to the schools. Our teachers have lost their income; we’ve crowded their classrooms.  We’ve taken away funding for resources for extra stuff like construction paper and staples.  And we don’t have to do it.  So when does the war on teachers stop, and when does the war on public schools stop if we don’t stop it this year?”

Not content to lobby only for National Board Certification, 24th Legislative District NBCTs got involved in advocacy for health insurance, high stakes assessment, charter schools, and teacher evaluation.  38 of us signed a group letter to Senator Jim Hargrove asking him to oppose the Senate Republican Budget, which was so harmful to education in so many ways.  NBCT Al Gonzalez even posted about this group letter on his blog.

It’s not over!  We have some next steps!

  • You know what National Board Certification has meant to you and your students.  Now is a great time to share that with potential new candidates!  The second and last round this year of the Washington State Conditional Loan opens April 23, 2012 and closes May 18.   More National Board Information.

    WEA Olympic Lobby Team

  • In terms of political advocacy, what’s coming up?  Well, it’s an election year! When it comes to the education issues we care about, who are we going to be trying to lobby next year?  The candidates we elect now.  One of the gubernatorial candidates, Jay Inslee, even mentioned National Board Certification in his education platform, saying he wanted to “Build upon the successful efforts of the Washington Education Association and others to increase the number of teachers who achieve National Board Certification.”  You’ve honed some political skills and become familiar with some issues through LAN involvement.  Maybe this is the year to get involved in a campaign!

Keep in touch!  Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @WEAnbcts, send an email.

(This post was written as an email to members of the National Board Local Action Network in the 24th Legislative District, which covers the Olympic Peninsula.)

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New Math and Science Teaching Certificate Renewal Requirements coming soon!

Chimacum students integrate science with technology by using column chromatography to isolate green fluorescent protein from bacteria.

Think the special session was just about the budget?  Well think again.

The week before the special session ended, House Bill 2160 was introduced and then passed. Governor Gregoire signed it into law. What does this bill do? Among other things, it requires the Professional Educator Standards Board to change the teaching certificate RENEWAL requirements for all teachers at the elementary and secondary level who are associated with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). It mandates a focus on STEM integration as a requirement for teacher certification renewal. As most elementary teachers are general ed teachers whose assignment includes subjects such as science and math, this affects a lot of teachers!

Here’s part of the text of the new law:

Sec. 3. The professional educator standards board shall revise certificate renewal rules for teachers at the elementary and secondary levels in STEM-related subjects by September 1, 2014. The revised rules shall include the requirement that continuing education or professional growth plans for these teachers include a specific focus on the integration of science, mathematics, technology, and engineering instruction.

Why would I possibly be concerned about this? I completely support the intent of this legislation. I truly believe that science education is at its best when it is integrated—with science process skills used to learn content, and the various science disciplines—physical science, life science, earth science—taught together. That is one of my main concerns with Washington’s move to a biology end-of-course exam—it promotes a single discipline, biology, to the detriment not only of other specific science disciplines but also to the detriment of integrated science study. Should this integration be included in teacher professional development? Yes, of course.

My three concerns with the new requirement renewal: (1) The fiscal note attached to this bill blithely reads, “No fiscal impact.” However, clearly, it will not be free to reeducate the entire teacher workforce impacted by this bill. By “No fiscal impact,” it means no cost to state coffers. So who will absorb this cost? Well, likely the teachers themselves. Summary of testimony at the House Education Committee hearing on this bill includes, “It is worth remembering that neither the state nor districts have resources to provide professional development opportunities for current teachers.” State math and science professional development funds which existed a few years ago no longer are around. This new requirement with no designated funds attached means the teachers will bear the costs.

(2) Teachers who now hold continuing or professional certificates have two options for renewal: 150 clock hours or National Board Certification. What might the new renewal requirements mean for these teachers? Perhaps clock hour courses which fulfill the integration requirement will be offered—again, this is a cost usually carried by teachers. Will National Board Certification or National Board Renewal, both rigorous processes, be enough to satisfy this new requirement? Or will there be another requirement and cost on top of this? The Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) will be dealing with these issues as they put together the new rules.

(3) This law also mentions the option of incorporating the integration requirement into a teacher’s Professional Growth Plan, a component of teacher evaluation. This could be a fantastic idea, with one caveat: Washington state is currently reworking the entire teacher evaluation system. Putting into law any add-ons to teacher evaluation at this point is a bit preliminary—we don’t even know what a Professional Growth Plan under the new system will look like yet!

HB 2160 also addresses new standards for the elementary endorsement and secondary math and science teacher endorsements. It reads:

Sec. 1. The revised standards shall be aligned, as appropriate, with the biology end-of-course assessment, and the 2012 student science learning standards developed from the conceptual framework for science education and next generation standards and related student performance expectations.

My concerns:

  1. Alignment to the biology end-of-course exam. The alignment of integrated STEM teacher certification standards to a narrowly focused end-of-course exam in biology is nonsensical. The very idea of doing this highlights the main problem with having a high stakes exam in a single discipline. Not only does it focus student learning on biology, but it also, through this new law, drives professional development in this direction. The stated purpose of this law is to “revise standards and assessments for teacher certification integrating STEM knowledge and skills.” To align to the biology EOC exam seems completely contrary to the whole intent of any integrated STEM initiative.
  2. Alignment to the Next Generation Science standards. So those Next Generation Science Standards? They only exist in an unfinished early draft form. In addition, while Washington state has been a leader in this effort, they certainly have not yet been adopted. What kind of idea is it to align teaching endorsements to standards that don’t yet even exist? This presupposes that the standards will be of high quality and will be adopted by Washington state. Both of these things are likely true, but let’s wait until we can at least see the complete standards before we start aligning teaching endorsements to them!
  3. The somewhat sloppy wording in this bill lumps together the biology EOC, which is an assessment, with the Next Generation Science standards. Student learning standards and student assessments are very different things, and neither one here was ever designed for alignment with teacher endorsements!

The impact of this new law will all be in the interpretation by the Professional Educator Standards Board and in the subsequent implementation. Meaningful integration of science, technology, engineering, and math needs to happen in teacher professional development, and we need to be aggressive about that in Washington state. However, for this to happen, resources need to be provided, and alignment to any standards needs to happen in a reasonable way.

Thinking about National Board Certification? Now’s the time!

The state legislature is supportive, OSPI has opened up applications for their conditional loan (closes May 18), and the WEA is now registering people for Jump Start, their fabulous summer seminar that will get you on your way! If National Board certification has been in the back of your mind, now might be the time to pursue it. National Board Certification is a rigorous professional development program which focuses on making a positive impact on student learning.

Why do it?

Teaching and Learning Benefits:

  • Positive impact on student learning
  • Improved professional practice
  • Personal challenge
  • Backed by extensive independent research

Certification Benefits:

  • Replaces state teaching certificate (no clock hour requirement!)
  • Can be done instead of ProCert/ProTeach
  • If you have a residency certificate, that certificate can be renewed for the full three years you may be a National Board candidate to allow for retakes
  • 45 clock hours for completing process; 45 more upon certification; many more for attending support programs

Financial Benefits:

  • $5090 annual stipend for 10 years and can be renewed
  • The stipend is $3054 the first year a teacher certifies–it is prorated because certification happens partway through the school year
  • Pensionable: $1527 extra annually (depending on years of service) in defined benefit portion of the Teachers’ Retirement System for duration of retirement
    (1 percent X $5090 X 30 years service credit = $1527)

What is it?

4 entries, April 1-March 31 timeline:

  • One entry on assessment practice and analyzing student work
  • Two video based entries—usually one small group and one whole class
  • One entry documenting impact on student learning by the teacher as a learner, the teacher as a collaborator/leader, and the teacher as communicator with parents and community
  • 6 assessment exercises. These are 30 minutes each and are completed in one day at an assessment center.
  • Take One! Program. You have the option of completing one portfolio entry a year before you complete the rest, allowing you to spread the work over more time and make sure the process is right for you before you do the whole thing.

What support is available?

  • District/University support programs: get feedback on papers/videos from a trained facilitator, give and receive peer feedback, required by state loan.
  • Conditional loan from OSPI. Applications are due May 18. This is a no interest loan that is paid back out of the first year’s stipend. It is for $2000. The candidate is responsible for the other $500 of the NBPTS registration fee.
  • OSPI will pay (as a scholarship) for two retakes; priority given to state loan recipients
  • National scholarships.
  • WEA Jump Start and Home Stretch. Need based scholarships are available. Great seminars from our state teachers’ union to help you through the process.

What are the next steps?

  • Choose a certificate area.
  • Read the “Assessment at a Glance” document for an overview of requirements and sample questions
  • Look at the National Board teaching standards and see how they are reflected in your own classroom!