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Washington Envy

July 23, 2010

Seattle is a wonderful city, and a well-chosen site for the recently concluded summer conference of the National Staff Development Council (NSDC).  The state of Washington has some teacher development and teacher leadership practices that California should emulate.  Those of us involved with Accomplished California Teachers (ACT) have taken note, and we call on our state’s policymakers, educational organizations, teachers and unions to learn from Washington’s example.

More specifically, what I’m so impressed with is an alliance of organizations that has produced a unified, collegial, and cohesive approach to address the needs of teachers and schools to improve in their work.  One part of this alliance is the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession* (CSTP).  I’ve written a little bit about CSTP in the past, almost exactly one year ago, in a Teacher Magazine blog post that mentioned Terese Emry.  At this conference, Emry has been part of the planning committee and has also seen the work of CSTP affirmed in a new report by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, highlighting the state’s success in ramped up efforts to expand National Board Certification throughout the state.  National Board Certification is professional development of the highest order, and the state of Washington has become a case study – literally – in how to craft policy that promotes better teaching.  Ten years ago, a state education office tracked its dozens of National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) by putting push-pins into a map of the state.  Now, as the state has nearly 4,000 such teachers, they’ve had to retire the pins and map.  This impressive growth puts Washington among the leading states in National Board Certification efforts.  Meanwhile, in California, state-level support for NBCTs has diminished in recent years, leaving a patchwork of highly variable district policies.

CSTP is effective in part due to its relationship with the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction, where Michaela Miller has been an effective liaison between state government and teachers.  Miller has played a significant role in ensuring support from the state government to advance the teaching profession, particularly through the National Board Certification process and a new teacher evaluation program.  I’ve had the privilege of participating in education advocacy training developed and delivered by Miller and Emry, as they have made their training available through conferences and other education networks outside of Washington.  Their model has helped many Washington teachers, especially National Board Certified Teachers, to become more effective advocates for educational change.

This coalition promoting better teaching in Washington also includes the state’s NEA affiliate, the Washington Education Association (WEA).  While some unions – and their members – have been slow to come around, WEA has staked out a position embracing National Board Certification.  WEA has collaborated with these other entities to support teachers who take on the challenge of certification, and further support NBCTs in efforts to speak out.  As a result, the state union is an effective partner in the advancement of better teaching and better schools.  I heard from one of WEA’s leaders about discussions going on with other NEA state affiliates in the West, and I look forward to seeing the California Teachers Association engaged in similar collaborative, multi-agency efforts to advance the teaching profession in California.


* I would also like to add a special congratulations to CTSP Founder and Executive Director Jeanne Harmon, who was recently honored for her work with CSTP.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2010 11:06 am

    We’ve all got a case of Washington envy…

    Thanks for highlighting the work of CSTP and its talented employees. Terese Emry is a true teacher leader, in every sense of the word.

    The partnership between CSTP, the Dept of PI and the union–and the innovative thinking of folks like Emry, Michaela Miller and Jim Meadows at the WEA–is unique in this country, where turf battles dominate educational initiatives. Thanks also for noting Jeanne Harmon’s single-minded pursuit of strengthening the teaching profession. Every state should have such a visionary.

  2. July 24, 2010 11:25 pm

    I teach in the state of Washington. It is impossible to say enough about how the people and organizations you mention have transformed education in the state of Washington.

    One of the greatest achievements of their collaboration is the development of teacher capacity for advocacy at various levels–whether it is helping teachers mentor one another at a building or district level or helping teachers cultivate their voices in front of policymakers and elected officials. As teachers themselves, Terese Emry, Michaela Miller, Jim Meadows, and Jeanne Harmon understand that in order for education to go in the direction educators want it to go, educators have to be the ones who step up and participate. But, rather than just demanding teachers step up, these folks an their organizations (WEA, CSTP, and even OSPI) have helped teachers learn how to improve their own profession from within. If more people in other states could be privy to what these people have done, there would be even more Washington envy out there.

  3. David B. Cohen permalink*
    July 26, 2010 10:43 am

    Nancy and Mark – thanks for your comments, reaffirming my observations about these wonderful people. I feel fortunate to have met them all and to be engaged in efforts that might bring about some positive changes in California. We need all the help we can get here!

  4. July 28, 2010 12:37 pm

    And let’s not forget that the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards’ work has been validated by two recent studies.

    First, by Helen Ladd:

    Even Paul Peterson found a positive effect:

  5. David B. Cohen permalink*
    July 28, 2010 8:23 pm

    Thanks for adding those links, Claus.

  6. July 30, 2010 7:56 am

    Wow, thanks David and all for the kind words! We are really proud of the work here in Washington. The case study has caused me to pause and reflect on the the last ten (!) years and think about how this complex system has been built over time. In CSTP’s Advocacy Training we teach about the power that comes from finding the middle ground on which people can agree. I think the successes we’ve had in Washington can be attributed to many people over many years keeping their eyes on the shared vision that is that middle ground. That is easier said than done, as it seems in the profession that we jump from idea to idea without investing the time to let something actually work. But we have had the luxury of time due to the support of many policymakers, foundations, and organizations. We have also had the good fortune to work with amazing teacher leaders, like Mark, who have stepped forward to lead in so many ways. There is of course much more work to do though, so we forge ahead. Looking forward to continued work with you and ACT, David!


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