Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dear President-Elect Trump - I Would Like to Apply for the Secretary of Education Position

Dear President-Elect Trump,

I have sent you two direct tweets asking for you to please consider me for the position of Secretary of Education, to which I have only received a 'form DM' response, complete with a link to buy a t-shirt to make America Great.

I already think America is Great. Which is why I am concerned about your current nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. As a person who has devoted myself to education for over 26 years, I am concerned that this choice will make the public education in the United States fall even further behind and become even more inequitable. For this reason, I am throwing my name in the hat. I feel I am a much better choice to help get our U.S. education to a better place, and I would like to outline my qualifications as compared to Ms. DeVos.

First, let me say, I am very serious. While I realize you have made an initial nomination, the approval is a ways off and I think if you had some concrete facts you might find there is a better option out there. I would like the opportunity. While I have never been politically inclined, I am passionate about teachers, students, and our great system of education, and I feel it is my civic duty to apply for this position in order to prevent a potential de-construction of some hard work that has been going on for a long time in our great education system.  Are there problems? Absolutely. Equity being one of the biggest concerns. And a concern that will only get worse under the direction of Ms. DeVos, a very public supporter of for-profit education, which directly undermines the idea of education-for-all that America stands for. The poor and under-served will only fall further behind.

Below is a quick side-by-side comparison of my qualifications for Secretary of Education compared to Ms. DeVos.

Dr. Karen M. Greenhaus Qualifications
Ms. Betsy DeVos Qualifications
Attended public schools from K-12 in Fairfax, VA
Attended private, Christian-based schools in Michigan (from what I could find in my research)
  • Attended public colleges and received three education degrees:
  • 1988 B.S. Mathematics Education, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
  • 1993 M.A. Curriculum & Instruction, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
  • 2014 Ed.D. Curriculum and Education Technology, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA

  • Attended private college and received a non-education related degree:
  • 1979 B.A. Political Science and Business Administration from Calvin College, a private, Christian Reform College in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Experience in the public and higher education field:
  • 15 years - Middle School and High School math teacher and math department chair in Chesterfield, Hanover, Chesapeake Counties, public school districts in VA
  • 2 years – Secondary Math Supervisor/Specialist, overseeing 250 math teachers, curriculum, and professional development in Virginia Beach, VA
  • 6 years – worked in math publishing and technology as Director of Edtech and Professional Development for two separate publishing companies (Key Curriculum/McGraw Hill Education). Supporting public school teachers in math, technology education, curriculum, standards
  • Over 17 years as an education advocate for quality education, hands-on learning, mathematics education, education policy, professional development. Speak at local, state and national education conferences, train around the world on math and technology integration, work with the Department of Defense Education Activities to support military students and teachers on effective implementation of College and Career Ready Standards, advocate for technology education, computer science, financial literacy, equity and access in public education.
  •  Have worked in multiple public school environments around the country and world (rural, suburban, urban, military)
  • Adjunct professer, Drexel University, for online math masters program courses, since May 2016

Experience in public education field:
  • None - has not worked in or had any experience with public education

Support of Public Education:
  • Went to public schools
  • Taught in public schools
  • Work and train teachers and administrators around the country and world (military schools)
  • Own children attended public schools in VA and TX and attended public colleges in Texas.
  • Advocates and researches on education policy to support Common Core Standards (adopted by 44 states, with states controlling and modifying), ESSA, and other education initiatives
  • Supports public school teachers and schools and advocates for teachers, students and parents and improving public schools

Support of Public Education:
  • None, if any, could be found
  • Children attended private schools
  • Supports for-profit Charter School initiatives and vouchers (shown to disenfranchise poorer and minority students), which undermines public education and funnels money away from public education
  • Does not support Common Core Standards, which are STATE created standards adopted by 44 states and Department of Defense Education Activities (military schools) (many modified by the states to address state needs (by state education leaders) and showing great success).
  • Does not support public school teachers and not supported by the NEA

As you can see in my quick summary, I am far more experienced, as both a product of and a participant in, public education. I have spent my career trying to better education for students and teachers and would like the opportunity to help shape the future of public education in a way that is in fact, uniting and beneficial for all students and teachers and the country. There are definite issues and policies that need to be addressed and fixed, and I feel I could do a much better, more equitable job, than your current nominee.  

I would love the opportunity to discuss this with you.


Dr. Karen Greenhaus

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Student Engagement & Learning - Connected to Teaching Intentionality

I read an article this morning from Nira Dale entitled "Why Instructional Design Must Focus on Learning Outcomes, Not Learning Activities". While the article was focused on edtech tools and making sure the games, devices and activities used to engage students also focused on learning goals, the message actually pertains to all education activities, whether technology is involved or not.

It reminded me of when I was working in Virginia Beach, where the whole district was working with creating lessons using the Understanding By Design framework from Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins.  The key message, that I have continued to utilize in all my work, is that engaging activities for the sake of having a 'fun' thing to do with students does NOT enhance student learning unless the activity chosen connects directly to the learning goals and desired student outcomes. Seems obvious of course - but, you would be surprised at how many teachers create wonderful, fun, engaging experiences for their students, with and without the use of technology, that don't connect to a learning goal.

The key point is intentionality in your choice of activities/resources/tools. Which of course requires deliberate planning and knowing your standards and desired learning outcomes.

I've been working as an International Fellow for the Charles A. Dana Center at UT Austin for the past two summers and as part of this work, we really focus on this idea of Alignment and Intentionality. Basically, understanding your standards for the grade/content you are teaching, really looking at what students should have learned and been able to do prior (previous grade), what the learning goals/expectations are for what you are teaching, and what they should be able to know and be able to do for the next grade. Aligning the standards vertically so that you can see the learning progression, which then informs your choice of activities.

Understanding the learning progression and standards informs what you as a teacher need to do to help students learn and reach those learning goals/objectives. This clear understanding of the learning goals forces you to be very deliberate and intentional in how you teach - what you do to review skills from previous grades, how you introduce new skills and concepts, what engaging activities you choose or resources/tools you use to support students learning of the concepts. Activities chosen for students to engage in should not be because it would be 'fun' and 'engaging', but because they would directly enhance and support the learning goals.

To sum up:
1) Understand the standards and the learning progression (vertical alignment)

  • Know and understand the standards you are going to teach
  • Look at the related standards from grade/course before and after so you understand what students should already know and be able to do and where they are going after they leave you 
2) Based on the learning objectives you have defined and aligned from step 1:

  • Choose activities that will support the content and skills you have determined need some review - be specific, make sure activities align directly to the content and skills you are focusing on
  • Choose learning activities that will introduce, teach, and enhance student understanding of your current grade/content standards. Look for engaging activities that support your specific learning objectives directly. Be deliberate in the activities you choose - if you can't directly align them to the learning goals, then don't choose.
3) Build in deliberate formative assessment so you can assess students progress and keep learning objectives at the forefront

  • Activities you choose should allow for formative assessment - questioning, student discussion, student collaboration - so that you can continually assess student progress 
  • Activities chosen should provide evidence of student understanding related directly to the learning objectives.
Basically - make your classroom an engaging learning environment but choose those engaging activities deliberately and intentionally so that your students are engaged in productive learning that helps them reach the learning goals. Learning goals should guide all your instructional decisions - from the tools you use to the activities your students engage in.