Category Archives: Professional Learnings

Public School Accountability: The Death of Student Learning

boywithbooksSatisfying the demand for highly skilled workers is the key to maintaining competitiveness and prosperity in the global economy.  For this reason, many educational policy makers strive to craft policies that assist educators in developing a stronger workforce.  This was the intended aim of the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act put forth by the Bush administration. However well intended the NCLB Act was, the consequences of several key requirements have turned out to be counterproductive.

In terms of direct impacts, the NCLB Act has eclipsed the following state and local education policies in the areas of (1) Standards and Assessment; (2) Accountability and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP); (3) Corrective Action; (4) Staff Qualifications; and (5) Parental Involvement (Federal Register Part IV, Department of Education 2013).  More specifically, the NCLB Act strengthened Title I accountability by requiring States to implement statewide accountability systems covering all public schools and students. These systems are required to base their accountability systems on challenging State standards in reading and mathematics, grades 3-5 annual testing for all students, and establish annual statewide progress objectives so that all groups of students demonstrate proficiency within 12 years. According to the United States Department of Education (2005), the assessment results and State progress objectives must be broken out by poverty, race, ethnicity, disability, and limited English proficiency, and if school districts and schools fail to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward statewide proficiency goals over time they will be subject to improvement, corrective action, and restructuring measures.  Schools that meet or exceed the AYP objectives or close achievement gaps will be eligible for State Academic Achievement Awards.

In the analysis of the NCLB direct impacts to state and local education policies, two key unintended consequences stand most prominent in the overall impedance to student learning.  The first unintended consequence is that of accountability.  Diane Ravitch (2011) makes the case in her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, that there are many questions can be made about the true origins and implications of NCLB and accountability.  Ravitch (2011) goes on to claim that many educators falsely believed that the NCLB was an outgrowth the standards movement when in fact, “the new reforms had everything to do with structural changes and accountability, and nothing at all to do with the substance of learning.” (Ravitch, 2011, pg.39).  The structural changes within NCLB, mentioned by Ravitch (2011), have frequently been stated as being politically motivated with little to do with a real substantive impact on student learning.  Today the affect of the accountability movement has not brought about the much-desired growth in student learning (Ravitch, 2011).  The second unintended consequence of NCLB Act were the imposed requirements for schools that consistently fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets.  According to Floch, Taylor, and Thomsen (2006) this requirement of NCLB could lead to schools dismantling years of comprehensive school reform efforts by implementing a new curricular program, restructuring the school day, or dismissing staff, all of which are possible courses of action under the legislation.   Floch, Taylor, and Thomsen (2006) go on to explain that,

Frequently, NCLB accountability is perceived to focus only on AYP targets, potentially diverting            attention from comprehensive improvement strategies. However, AYP and comprehensive                    improvement strategies should be linked, not in conflict: If schools do not make AYP,                            administrators should seek sound, research-based strategies to attain higher academic                      performance. However, this connection is often obscured by a “drill-and-kill” reaction to test              pressure, a focus on more mechanistic components of AYP (e.g., attendance rate), or                          developing strategies to “game” the system. Such conditions could indeed persuade teachers              that they can no longer take time to focus on all the components that are traditionally                        assumed to be a part of CSR, such as participation in shared governance structures,                          professional communication with peers, and parent involvement. 

With these types of unintended consequences of the NCLB Act permeating the educational landscape, it is hard to see how the educational legislation, in its current state, can help schools improve student learning and assist educators in developing a stronger workforce.



Federal Register Part IV, Department of Education. (2013). Title I—Improving the academic achievement of the disadvantaged; final rule. 34 CFR Part 200.

Floch, K. C. L., Taylor, J. E., & Thomsen, K. (2006). Implications of NCLB Accountability for Comprehensive School Reform. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 11(3-4), 353-366. doi: 10.1207/s10824669espr110304_8

Ravitch, D. (2011). The death and life of the great American school system: how testing and choice are undermining education (Apple iBooks ed.). New York, NY: Perseus Books.

U.S. Department of Education. (2005). Introduction: No child left behind. Retrieved from

What is your 21st Century Professional Development Plan?

Teacher PD

The increasingly competitive global workforce of the 21st century has brought on the need for students and teachers to develop new skills and competencies in our educational systems.  Given that the 21st century classroom is characterized by innovation and project-based context, schools should adopt a 21st century teaching and learning methods that blends creative thinking skills and employs methods of instruction that integrate modern learning technologies and real-world contexts (Wan & Gut, 2011).  To this end, educators need to be prepared to serve students in the context of new expectations to meet the demands for a more skilled workforce.  Accordingly, professional development training for teachers should incorporate innovative curriculum that include modern technology skills, and practical experiences in a 21st century classroom environment.  This suggests that teachers should also learn about innovative curricula that incorporate critical thinking, complex problem solving, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking, communication and collaboration, innovative use of knowledge, and financial literacy.
How are you personally preparing to address your student’s need to develop 21st century skills? What is your district’s plan to address these increasing demand for change?  At this point, every school system should have educators and administrators actively participating in on-going professional development that focuses on building the capacity of district-level leadership teams, principals, and teacher leaders in understanding 21st century skills and their importance. According to Wan & Gut (2011) every aspect of our education system including professional development must be aligned to prepare students with the 21st century skills.   Not only should this professional development instruct educators on the 21st century skills, it should also incorporate modern ideas around technology, innovative pedagogies, and new understandings of the nature of 21st century students.  More specifically, the professional development activities should challenge new and veteran teachers to work within more significant teaching teams and more collaborative professional learning practices (Campbell, Saltmarsh, Chapman, Drew 2013).
ubiquitous technology
     Teachers of 21st century students are increasingly experiencing classrooms where the availability and use technology by students is ubiquitous.  Educational researchers assert,

 … it can be argued that there is a need within education for the greater incorporation of technology, a reinvention of the way that classrooms and schools are constructed (at both the physical and relational levels) that respond to the necessary 21st-century skills. The changing nature of technology (moving from static tools for information delivery to dynamic, user developed tools of co-creation and sharing) provides a hint as to what these 21st-century skills may be (Campbell,, 2013, pg. 211).

Along with the integration of technology, 21st century classrooms are deeply rooted in innovation and problems solving (Chesbro & Boxler 2010).  This change in the learning environment for teachers and students creates a need for schools to become responsive and implement new pedagogies to that go beyond the traditional classroom pedagogy (Campbell,, 2013).  This is also supported by Wan & Gut (2011),

“For in-service teachers, “just-in-time” preparation that includes coaching and identification of new pedagogical tools and approaches to weave 21st century skills into content areas should be made available. Ideally, teaching academies, or other special initiatives, should exist so teachers can develop and renew 21st century skills and pedagogy in structured programs” (Wan & Gut, 2011, pg. 167).

It is difficult for teachers to teach what they have not experienced or do not know.  To this end, the professional development for veteran teachers should intentionally be crafted to ensure the development 21st century skills in collaborative non-traditional environments to help them understand the needs of the 21st center learner (Wan & Gut, 2011).  The closer the professional development environments are to the student learning environments, the more the sharing of practices will lead to the enhancement of student learning (Campbell,, 2013).
     To summarize, the on-going professional development for veteran teachers should included activities that incorporate innovative uses of technology, pedagogy training that is designed for the 21st century classroom, and opportunities for teachers to work in collaborative teams of teachers to foster the teacher development of 21st century skills and competencies.  
Campbell, M., Saltmarsh, S., Chapman, A., &  Drew, C. (2013).  Issues of teacher professional learning within ‘non-traditional’ classroom environments.  Improving Schools, 16(3), 209-222.

Chesbro, P., & Boxler, N. (2010). WEAVING THE FABRIC of professional development in the 21st century through technology. Journal of Staff Development, 31(1), 48-53,70. Retrieved from
Wan, G. & Gut, D.M. (2011 )  Explorations of Educational Purpose, Bringing Schools into the 21st Century [iBooks Edition]. Retrieved from iTunes.


Texas House Bill 5 Counselor Implications

Texas HB5Introduction
The rapid development of competing global markets has forced the American educational system to confront the need for the development of a more highly educated workforce.  As a result, K-12 school systems have been forced to prepare more students for the rigors of a variety of postsecondary experiences by refocusing their efforts on improving students’ awareness and readiness.  Texas’ 2013 legislative suite of educational changes, House Bill 5 (HB5), includes a vast array of reforms designed to provide flexibility for students to develop their talents and pursue early their postsecondary interests.  A major component of HB5 involves the expectation that school counselors take a more individualized approach to advising students for postsecondary pathways of their choice at earlier stages in their K-12 experience.  Specifically, 33 Tex. Educ. Code § 33.007 states that, starting in the 2014-2015 school year, elementary, middle/junior high, and high school counselors will be required to advise students and parents annually of the importance of postsecondary education; high school counselors must provide families with information related to the advantages of the new postsecondary focused graduation requirements.

The Problems
The implementation of HB5 presents school systems’ counseling departments with a host of problems, the most easily identifiable of which are:  the need for more and different (i.e., tailored to postsecondary preparation) professional development; the need for more effective implementation of the state school counseling model; and the need for more time and resources.  Solving these problems involve expenses that most school systems cannot afford; solutions are confounded further by several ancillary issues such as the limited number of certified school counselors, the shortage of funding streams for counseling programs, and the lack of system-wide understanding of the current guidance and counseling model and laws regulating the role of school counselors.

Counselor Professional Development
In a study on counselor models across the nation, researchers found that “the traditional mental health-focused training provided to school counselors over the past decades may have provided ample skill development for practitioners to help students with personal and social challenges, but it falls devastatingly short of helping students succeed academically in schools of the 21st century” (Martin, 2002, p. 149).  Thus, school counselors now must acquire specific knowledge on academic and career advisement related to the variety of available postsecondary programs of study that are aligned with students’ interests in addition to training related to the new high school endorsement and graduation requirements.

Effective Implementation of the State School Counseling Model
In 1989, the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Counseling Association adopted the Texas Comprehensive Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program (CDG), which was revised in 2004.  Having the Texas CDG allows a school district to include sequential activities organized and implemented by certified school counselors with the support of teachers, administrators, students, and parents to address specific student needs.  Local implementation of a state CDG is associated with students having better academic performance, better relationships with teachers, and more positive outlooks regarding future and career opportunities than other models (Lapan, Gysbers, & Petroski, 2001; Lapan, Gysbers, & Sun, 1997).  However, in a national study of state counselor program models, Martin, Carey, and DeCoster (2009) found that Texas had only four to six of the 9 features predictive of effective local implementation of state models.  Texas’ designation as a “Progressing” state suggests that there was room for improvement at the local implementation level, and even more so now given HB5 legislation.

Limited Time and Resources
To fulfill the basic mission of the Texas CDG, program balance of the four components (i.e., guidance curriculum, responsive services, individual planning, system support) along with specific school priorities, must be established as noted by the Texas CDG recommended balance time distribution in Figure 1 below.

Texas Comprehensive Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program
Balance Time Distribution

Texas CDG Components Elementary School Middle School HighSchool
Guidance Curriculum 35%-45% 35%-40% 15%-25%
Responsive Services 30%-40% 30%-40% 25%-35%
Individual Planning 5%-10% 15%-25% 25%-35%
System Support 10%-15% 10%-15% 15%-20%
Non-Guidance 0% 0% 0%

Figure 1, Texas Education Agency, 2004

            Effective implementation of the Texas CDG should include all four components, but the relative emphasis of each component will vary from district to district, perhaps even from campus to campus, depending on the developmental and special needs of the students served.  Even though the Texas CDG suggests 0% time allocation of non-guidance activities, many school counselors often are assigned duties that could fall in that category.  According to the models presented by Gysbers and Henderson (2000) and Myrick (1993), the non-guidance category, which would include administrative and clerical duties, can sometime take up more time than other important tasks when a plan to eliminate them is not implemented.

In terms of resources, the effectiveness of CDGs is directly related to the counselor-to-student ratio within the program.  It is clear that the larger the counselor’s student case load, the less individual attention students receive; the smaller the student load, the more individual attention is possible.  Ratio recommendations are wide ranging.  The American School Counselor Association recommends a maximum ratio of 1:250, while the Texas School Counselor Association, Texas Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association have recommended ratios of 1:350 ( In practice, however, the national, average counselor-to-student ratio is 1 to 457 (Belasco, 2013), and in Texas, the average ratio is 1:440. (American School Counselor Association, 2011).

Potential Solutions
Despite the abundance of news media coverage and dedicated educator conference sessions, there is still an overwhelming sense of uncertainty plaguing many local schools systems regarding the details of HB5 counselor implications.   Moreover, the endeavors that people have taken to explore these implications have lead to the realization there is a limited knowledge base of the Texas CDG among school and district leadership, thereby obstructing the ability to work within the system to meet the HB5 counselor requirements.  Thus far, many school systems have attempted to address the HB5 counselor needs simply by hiring more counselors or postsecondary advisors to help meet the individual advisement and planning needs of their students (Weiss & Haag, 2013).   This costly solution step has been the option taken by the majority of school systems across the state.  If implemented in isolation, this shortsighted approach leaves out the much-needed opportunity brought on by HB5, to rethink, refocus, and reframe the role of the counselor within our existing state model.  There are a number of solution steps that can be implemented at the local and state levels to manage this dilemma better.

Local Level
There needs to be a comprehensive review of the 2004 Texas CDG to understand the model more fully.  Based on personal experience, it is apparent that many campus and district leaders, especially those who are making the decisions to hire more counselors, are not very familiar that the state CDG model exists, much less the flexibility it affords school counseling programs.  Teams of counselors, teacher leaders, and administrators should be developed to promote awareness and understanding of the CDG in an effort to make wiser decisions about how to utilize available resources most effectively.

School districts should explore virtual networks of certified counselors to meet the individual planning needs of students. Within 33 Tex. Educ. Code § 33.002 there exists an option for school district to share counselors.  This collaboration could be incorporated in a virtual setting to allow districts to provide services to students beyond the face-to-face counseling model that currently exists.  The model of online counseling and academic advising has been in place in strong virtual school networks such as Florida Virtual School Network and Stand University Online High School (

The school system should increase the amount of time allocated to the career development subcomponent recommended within the Texas CDG.  Although it is true that this shift would reduce the amount of time school counselors spend on other components of the model, other campus or district leaders (e.g., assistant principals, social workers) could assume some of those responsibilities so that students would still reap important benefits.

In addition, school systems should identify additional funding streams that could support the additional professional development and staffing needs due to implementing these proposed solution steps.  Since external funding often is critical to model implementation (Martin et. al, 2009, p.383), local, state, and federal grants should be explored.

State Level
It would be beneficial for Texas to designate a school counseling leader at the Texas Education Agency level who is charged with the CDG implementation.  Research demonstrates that strong leadership at the state level promotes critical collaborations, forms common understandings about school counseling (by creating state level accountability systems tied to state-level accreditation standards and state level standards for school counselor preparation), promotes local implementation of effective student programs, and contributes to education reform (Gyber, 2006).  To see real change in the effectiveness of the school counselors and the CDG implementation, there needs to be a leader appointed who devotes at least 50% of his/her time to school counseling and whose position is housed within the career and technical education unit of the state department of education (Martin et. al., 2009).

Finally, states like Texas, with strong local control policies, should provide incentives to encourage local systems to implement the state guidance and counseling models (Martin et. al., 2009).  Grants and other resources to support training and other needs could be offered to systems that develop and show evidence of effective programming.

The aforementioned solutions proposed to address the problems presented by HB5 have their limitations.  For example, extensive time and effort would need to be dedicated to reviewing the CDG, seeking and applying for applicable grants, and developing virtual networks of counselors; school systems could be resistant to redistributing their administrators’ time away from their typical duties.  Regarding solutions at the state level, changing the CDG verbiage may actually involve political maneuvering and philosophical shifts that could take time to evolve.  Additionally, monies for hiring a state-level counseling leader and funding incentives may not be readily available.


American School Counselor Association (2011). School-to-School-Counselor Ratio
2010-2011. Retrieved from

Association of American Educators (2013). Virtual Education and School Counseling.
Retrieved from

Gysbers, N.C., & Henderson, P. (2000).  Developing and Managing your school guidance program (3rd ed.).  Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association

H.B. No. 5, Acts of Texas Legislature 83rd Regular Session 2013 amends: Tex. Educ. Code § 33.005, 33.006, 33.007.

Lapan, R.T., Gysbers, N.C., & Petroski, G.F. (2001).  Helping seventh graders be safe and successful in school :  A statewide study of the impact of comprehensive guidance and counseling programs.  Journal of Counseling and Development, 79. 320-330.

Lapan, R.T., Gysbers, N.C., & Sun, Y. (1997).  The impact of more fully implemented guidance programs on the school experiences of high school students :  A statewide evaluation study.  Journal of Counseling and Development, 75, 292-302.

Martin, I. M., Carey, J. P., & DeCoster, K. (2009). A National Study of the Current Status of State School Counseling Models. Professional School Counseling, 12(5), 378-386.

Martin, P. J. (2002). Transforming school counseling: A national perspective. Theory into Practice, 41(3), 148.

Myrick, R.D. (1993). Developmental guidance and counseling: A practical approach. Minneapolis, MN: Educational Media.

S.B. No. 715, Acts of Texas Legislature 83rd Regular Session 2013 amends: Tex. Educ. Code § 33.002.

Texas Education Agency.  (2014). School Guidance and Counseling Recommended Ratios.  Retrieved from

Texas Education Agency.  (2004).   A Model comprehensive, developmental guidance and counseling program for Texas public schools: A Guide for Program Development Pre-K-12th Grade. Retrieved from

Weiss, J., & Haag, M. (2013, August 19). High school counselors face learning curve as state law assigns new roles. The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved from


What do you mean by “college and career readiness”?

“…the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs to enroll and succeed in credit-bearing first-year courses at a post secondary institution (such as a two- or four-year college, trade school, or technical school) without the need for remediation. ”


Blended Learning: A Program for College and Career Readiness?

There are many different blended learning models today, but what is at the heart of blended learning? According to the Innosight Institute, blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace and least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.

At first glance, this definition sounds very technical, but at the heart of this definition is a situation in which students are engaged in a realistic learning environment for today’s expectations. This becomes more clear when we consider the needs of the 21st century learner as well as the deficiencies of the 21st century American workforce. Both unveil the misalignment between our current educational practices and our desired outcomes.

As a district administrator, one of my tasks is to coordinate the development of a college going culture. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Helping teachers better understand their students’ needs
  • Helping students to becoming better learners
  • Incorporating 21st century skills

This is where blended learning models come in. These are not silver bullets, but they are ways to better serve students on silver platters. The teachers today are confronted with many obstacles, but blended learning affords them with models to address today’s college and career demands. If we are truly working to prepare students for the rigors of college and career, we have to be focused on how students learn, the learning environment, and the expectations after they leave the K-12 system. If done well, blended learning accomplishes they goals.

What do you Think

Now this is my take, what is yours? For those of you teaching Advanced placement (AP) and Dual Credit courses, how do you see blended learning impacting your classrooms, as you prepare students for college and careers?

Digital Literacy: Essential for College and Career Readiness

Digital Literacy: the awareness of technology tools and the knowledge of when and how to use them.
Today, many K-12 school systems have made great investments in the area of technology integration. Although this is a giant step in the right direction, much more needs to be done to truly transform the learning environment. To make this technological leap more effective, K-12 school systems must focus their attention on determining which technologies must be taught as well as how and under what circumstances they should be used. This pedagogical shift involves pairing the appropriate tools with the learning tasks in question.

Ultimately, the role of today’s educators is to teach students how to learn in a digital environment. In other words, we have to prepare students for college and career by preparing them for learning anything, anytime, anywhere. Since technology changes everyday, students must be able to adapt and learn how to use that new technology quickly and appropriately. This need becomes clearer if we take a closer look at what it means to be college and career ready today. In David Conley’s 2007 EPIC report, Redefining College Readiness, he mentions several relevant characteristics that define the ability to function in today’s “real world” environment. These characteristics are summarized into four distinct dimensions:

  • key cognitive strategies;
  • content knowledge;
  • self-management skills; and
  • knowledge about postsecondary education.

In light of Dr. Conley’s discussion of the complexity of college and career readiness, K-12 school systems must have a more open-minded perspective about how to make improvements in this area. Critically, implementing a comprehensive plan for teaching students about digital literacy is invaluable. Students with a strong grasp of digital literacy will be equipped with the skill sets necessary to navigate through the complexities of college and career readiness by directly or indirectly addressing several of the dimensions mentioned by Dr. Conley. Specifically, students will be able to develop deep content knowledge when lessons are brought to life with authentic technology integration that transforms the learning experience. Digital literacy would help students take full advantage of the digital learning environment. Students will also be able to utilize technology to enhance self-management techniques or compensate for self-management deficiencies. This dimension alone may have the greatest impact on students’ futures due to the long-term implications of personal efficiency and effectiveness on college and career success. Lastly, digital literacy would provide students with the ability to learn more about post-secondary programs, participate in opportunities to experience classrooms and other programs online, and then to make informed academic choices. So, digital literacy is a true essential for college and career readiness.