The following is a list of recent resources for those focused on the professional improvement of teachers, principals, and other educational leaders.

Unconference for Great Results  Unscripted, informal, teacher-driven: Unconference. This is a different kind of professional development that’s been spreading – a free, active, organic approach to conferring with colleagues. Participants arrive at a pre-determined location, identify what they want to discuss, and move among impromptu sessions in order to learn. A familiar name is EdCamp, but anyone can start an unconference (Godsey, KQED News)

Before Voucher Legislation Comes Back in 2018, TN Lawmakers Want a Plan to Determine Whether Vouchers Work  While Tennessee lawmakers will go home this year without passing school vouchers into law, they’re not leaving the idea behind. (Chalkbeat, May 2)

Rural Districts Band Together to Promote Innovation Across Schools  In many cases, collaboration is proving to be the key to student success. (Education Week, May 16)

NYCLA’s new online simulations develop leaders’ capacity to advance equity in schools  NYCLA has released a brand-new resource, the latest in our ongoing efforts to support educational leaders in effectively addressing inequities in schools. The Equity Sims are interactive, video-based leadership simulations that engage leaders in decision-making and scenarios that reflect the experiences facing school and district leaders.

Education Governance Systems  A staff member at a state senate office asked ECS about the structure of state education systems, including specific types of governance structures. See their response.

Two Schools: Putting a Face on Inequity  Education reporter Dusty Rhodes stepped away from the numbers related to school funding and took a moment to hear directly from students. As part of the Metropolitan Community Project, students from Kelvyn Park and New Trier High Schools recently visited the statehouse to share their perspectives with legislators. (NPR Illinois)

Evidence-Based School Funding Model is a Win for Special Education Students  The evidence-based funding model, proposed in three bills currently circulating in the General Assembly, includes emphasizes individual student needs and includes funding for all students, including special education students, writes Dr. Kevin Rubenstein, President-elect of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education. (State Journal-Register)

Teach Plus is looking for excellent teachers for the Illinois Teaching Policy Fellowship.  Teachers will learn about policy issues that affect them and their students, practice advocacy skills such as writing op-eds or meeting with legislators, and work to influence state education policy to ensure that all students receive a great education.  Fellows also receive a stipend.  If you are an experienced teacher (at least three years classroom experience) who is ready to expand your influence.

If video is so powerful, shouldn’t principals use it too?  Principals can use video review to improve their practices with staff. It is suggested that principals review their recorded interactions with teachers to gain a better understanding of the manner in which they speak and look, how they listen to their staff, and how they can improve the way they approach meeting engagement.

How to Recruit Black Principals was published in The Atlantic last week by Lillian Mongeau from The Hechinger Report. The article includes a powerful profile of New Leader principal Macquline King-Morris and details how nonprofits like New Leaders and others have successfully recruited talented educators of color.

Teachers Guide for Change  In Meriden, Conn., students and teachers drive the learning. This wasn’t always the case, though. For years, it was, “‘What am I going to tell the kids today?’ And now it’s, ‘What am I going to have the kids show me today?’” according to English teacher Patrick Good. The transformation happened when new administration came in and decided to make real change. Superintendent Mark Benigni muses, “Collaboration is about recognizing that the best ideas don’t always come from the superintendent’s desk. Sometimes it comes from our students or our families, and many times it comes from a great teaching staff” (Korbey, Edutopia).

Why Continuous Improvement Briefs?  What we have learned covers a lot of territory: from candidate recruitment and selection to year-long residencies; academic coursework to field-based coaching; and initial leadership endorsement to ongoing assessment and development of post-licensure candidates for the doctorate. As a result of our commitment to continuous improvement, virtually everything we do now to enact these program elements is different from what we did when we began the program. A core lesson for us has been that each program element inevitably becomes defined by one or more significant “problems of practice” for those seeking to prepare school leaders.

Selection of Leadership CandidatesA significant problem of practice in more selective admissions is assessing and measuring individual characteristics most likely to be associated with later school leader success, including achievement of strong student learning outcomes. This continuous improvement brief, part one of two, describes the progress UIC has made on designing and developing its selection processes to address this problem of practice.

Business and Civic Leaders Call for School Funding Reform as Vital to the State’s Economic Future  As an organization of the region’s largest employers, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club has become increasingly concerned about the deterioration of Illinois’ attractiveness as a place to live and work, as well as its reputation among investors. This report lays out recommendations for bringing Illinois back. In addition to a financial framework, the report recommendations to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of local governments, school funding reforms and changes to the State’s workers’ compensation system.

State Gridlock: Loss of School Funding Leaves Vital Programs on Life Support  This report is a compilation of stories from school districts and school-related programs describing the negative impacts of the state’s budget impasse and the state’s failure to be able to fund even the one budget that was passed—the PK-12 budget for the current school year. The stories came from different geographic areas and touched on different programs ranging from operating budget woes to transportation, special education and vocational programs.

New Data Visualization Tools Demonstrate Inequities in Education   As a follow-up to Every Student Counts: The State We’re In 2016-2017, we’ve developed a new set of data visualization tools that allow users to access local data on educational equity and filter it based on factors including poverty and race. View how well your school district is doing in reaching the proposed funding adequacy target for a quality education (Illinois ranks 49th in funding adequacy). Accompanying poverty and race maps show that poverty isn’t a black or white issue, it’s black AND white. Other interactive maps include postsecondary attainment at the county level and bachelor’s degree attainment by race at the county level.

Lawmakers Want to Subsidize Higher Education Costs for Those Who Stay in Illinois  Three representatives have proposed a plan to subsidize higher education costs for college students who choose to stay in Illinois. Reps. Lou Lang of Skokie and Will Guzzardi and Christian Mitchell of Chicago announced their plan Tuesday. It would provide full-time Illinois students attending a public university or community college with a yearly grant capped at $4,000.

Can You Tell What My Zip Code Is?  That’s the first question JT Boehme asks in a recent video titled “Dear Politicians” featuring students from Taylorville telling the story of how Illinois’ inequitable school funding system directly impacts them. These students are dreamers, fighters, students and the next generation of people, asking their elected officials: Doesn’t that mean anything to you?

Op-ed: Allowing Teachers to Lead and Collaborate Should Be the Rule Not the Exception  How can we leverage the incredible talent that already exists inside our schools? Allow talented teachers to provide leadership, mentoring, modeling, coaching for other educators. Fran Feely, a Chicago Public Schools educator, makes the case for more teacher-led professional development.

Teacher Shortages: Top 10 Ideas from the First State Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plans
  Under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the nation’s national education law, every state must submit an ESSA plan to the U.S. Department of Education either by May or September 2017. The required report examines policies to address teacher shortages among the first 17 states to submit ESSA plans (Florida has not yet submitted a plan). The policies include the following: marketing the teaching profession; strengthening the pre-college teacher pipeline; supporting strategic, purposeful teacher recruitment; collaborating with teacher preparation programs; supporting new teachers; increasing teacher compensation; promoting teacher leadership; thinking systematically; supporting local education agencies; and incorporating 2015 State Plans to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators into efforts to address the teacher shortage.  (American Institutes for Research)

The Condition of Education 2017  This website contains key indicators on the condition of education in the United States at all levels, from prekindergarten through postsecondary, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons. The indicators summarize important developments and trends using the latest statistics, which are updated throughout the year as new data become available. In addition, this website has “Spotlight” indicators that provide more in-depth analyses on selected topics such as homeless children and youth in public schools.  (National Center for Education Statistics)

5Ws of Quality Professional Learning  Most educators know that there is a way to develop strong professional development, and quality professional development plan if there is intentionality behind the standard 5Ws.  Among the questions teachers should ask: Who is included in the planning and execution of the program? What learning experiences will occur and what dialogues may be helpful for introducing and reflecting on the experience? Linda Yaron, aLos-Angeles-based educator, provides further questions as well what a good professional development program should be (Education Week).

Education Workforce  Roxanne Garza and Melissa Tooley with New America report on the decrease in funding to Title II, Part A and how it result in less funding for teacher and principal development and support

Letter: If Springfield Doesn’t Pass Budget, Students Will Suffer  Several superintendents from across the state share an important message: if the budget impasse continues beyond the two-year mark, many districts will be pushed to make dire decisions. Unfortunately, some will not be able to keep their school doors open.

Veterans Asked to Join Teaching Profession  States looking to combat teacher turnover rates in high-poverty and high-needs schools are hoping to use military veterans to fill that void. However, many veterans need support and encouragement to join the teaching profession. A Department of Defense program called Troops to Teachers aims to ease that transition from the military to the classroom environment (Education Week).

Chief Operations Officers and Principals Partners in School Mgmt  If the principal’s main focus should be top-notch instruction and student success, she shouldn’t have to worry about students cutting class, empty bathroom soap dispensers, and the machinery of rolling lunches. At schools like Columbia Heights Education Campus in Washington, D.C., a director of school logistics and operations can take care of these concerns so the principal can do her own job. Pankaj Rayamajhi helps things run more smoothly by providing discipline, solving problems and talking to teachers and students all day long, liberating Maria Tukeva, the school’s principal, to do her job. “It’s been an immense help,” she says (nprED).

Why It’s So Hard to Know Whether School Choice Is Working  Experts say one single, overarching issue bedevils their efforts to study the impact of school choice programs. That is: It’s hard to disentangle the performance of a school from the selection of its students. (NPR, May 21)

What Are States Doing About Charter Schools in Their ESSA Plans?  States so far are making little mention of charter schools in their federal Every Student Succeeds Act plans, instead lumping charter and traditional public schools together in accountability proposals, according to a new report. (Education Week, May 23)

Strategy Labs: New Resources and Interactive Database  As a partner, Education Commission of the States is excited to support Lumina Foundation’s Strategy Labs platform by tracking and providing valuable and timely information on state postsecondary legislative activity across several key issue areas aligning with Lumina Foundation’s State Policy Agenda 2017-20. Strategy Labs allows policymakers and postsecondary education leaders to share research, data and professional experiences to advance educational attainment for students. As part of the initial launch, Education Commission of the States created the Strategy Labs Postsecondary Legislative Tracking resource, which enables users to explore education bills – sortable by state, issue and/or sub-issue – across the country for the 2017-2018 sessions. Check back for updates to this resource, which will continue to reflect new legislative activity, as well as additional related resources.

Principals and other school leaders: The evidence base for their critical role in ESSA – with state examples Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation, gave three educational briefings on “Principals and other school leaders: The evidence base for their critical role in ESSA – with state examples” using this PowerPoint on May 10, 2017. The briefings were given to: U.S. Senator (Washington-D) Patty Murray and her staff; members of the staff of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (Tennessee-R); and Michael Gentile, majority clerk of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Two new resources, one from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning and another from the Learning Policy Institute, look at how ESSA can help states plan and promote social and emotional learning in schools.

The New York Times published a Letter to the Editor by Geoffrey Nagle, the president and CEO of the Erikson Institute, on the need to design a tax benefit to support both young children and quality care.

New America writes on how ESSA can help support smooth transitions between preschool and early elementary grades.

I Quit and Here’s Why  Educators resign from their positions for a variety of reasons: from scripted lessons to an oppressive testing culture, and many teachers include these reasons in detailed resignation letters. Thanks to 21st century technology, many of these letters have now gone viral.  The authors of “With Regret: The Genre of Teachers’ Public Resignation Letters” wanted to understand how teachers’ memos aimed to make a difference in a system they view as broken. Contributors to the project provide a glimpse into the experiences of the many educators, novice to veteran, who taught at all grade levels and subjects (Education Week).