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5 questions for states on supporting student learning

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Jeff Charbonneau, 2013 National Teacher of the Year, received a standing ovation for his keynote remarks on Sunday at the National Association of State Boards of Education Annual Conference in Arlington, Va., where he implored members of the education community to maintain a focus on teaching “students of all backgrounds, all abilities to be successful no matter the circumstances.”

Charbonneau, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches chemistry, physics and engineering at Zillah High School in Washington state. He described his own efforts — through courses that allow students to earn college credit as well activities, such as robotics, drama and summer backpacking trips — to help students develop characteristics such as courage, confidence and self-sufficiency.

He encouraged states to see developments, such as the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, as opportunities rather than obstacles. “These are opportunities, if we get them right, to drastically improve education,” he noted.

Charbonneau then outlined five key questions for states and their leaders. “If you can answer these five key questions about your own plan, then I think your state is going to be in great shape,” he said.

  1. How are teachers being utilized? “Every teacher in your state has an opinion or an idea about how they can better education,” he said, asking, “How do you utilize them in your own states?”
  2. How are transitions being eased? These include transitions from elementary to middle school, middle to high school, and high school to college and careers, he noted. “If you have a plan in place to make sure that those transitions work as effectively and smoothly as possible then your state is going to be in a great place.”
  3. Are you using technology as a partner or a goal? “Technology for the sake of technology is not good education,” he said. “Let’s use technology for more than looking up the answer on Google. Let’s use it to delve into deeper and more meaningful questions and produce more meaningful answers to those questions. ”
  4. What is the plan for giving teachers adequate time? He encouraged states to consider how they will give teachers time to learn new technology, absorb and implement initiatives such as the common core, and introduce new testing methods or evaluation systems.
  5. How will you advertise the accomplishments of your students, educators and schools? “I think education in the United States is going much better than we know about,” he said. “What’s your plan to communicate the things that you are doing right?”

Katharine Haber is an associate editor for SmartBrief, writing and editing content about a variety of topics in education.