More from Janssen on Lastinger in Pinellas
If you looked at Sunday's Times, you probably saw this front page story about how Pinellas County has turned to University of Florida's Lastinger Center for Learning for help revitalizing its teacher training efforts.
We talked to superintendent Julie Janssen Thursday for a few minutes following a Pinellas County school board workshop about her support of the Lastinger model. Janssen had already spent a good amount of time during the workshop answering questions for board members about the program's scope, costs and purpose. Tensions grew heated twice during the meeting as she found herself declaring her unwavering support for Lastinger as board members, especially Terry Krassner, Linda Lerner and Janet Clark, expressed some skepticism and concern.
Here's is some of the conversation The Gradebook's Rebecca Catalanello had with Janssen. It is edited for length and clarity. As Janssen spoke, Bill Lawrence, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, was by her side, along with David Cook, who Janssen recently named the district's new chief communications officer.
Q: How do you know that Lastinger is working?
Janssen: It's hard for me to say the excitement the teachers are feeling. You talk to the teachers and they tell you how much they have grown.
Q: Is there data that can be produced to show that it is working?
Janssen: I think, like anything else, you have to look individually at the growth of the teacher. I mean, it's really about the teacher right now. To create the excitement for them to do a better job in the classroom. If you want to measure it on the FCAT, you could. But are we going to measure the Lastinger teachers or the people who are doing this on the FCAT data when we're already saying it has changed so much because the test is different? There are so many factors in here. There isn't any clean way, which is why our Research & Accountability team are working out a way to evaluate it. And we never evaluate it in the first year, anything that we do.
. . .
Janssen: Let me invite 10, 15 teachers, a focus group (for Times reporter Ron Matus to interview). He can write a great story about it. A lot of naysayers are the ones who don't want to do it...Are we going to build our system and become stagnant because there are a few people who are unwilling to do anything to better their craft? I mean, that's just like saying that all the naysayers, all the negative people that write nasty stories, instead of saying let's bring a collective mass of those that are involved and let him ask them.
Q: I think we can all understand how exciting it is as professionals to get training that will make us better at what we do. But how are we going to measure it. And why do you think so many board members are asking about it?
Janssen: There are not that many asking questions about it. Each of them have been invited to meet with the teachers. I think all except one did. They spoke to someone, they did not go to the school and they did not speak to the teachers... Never before have we ever had to justify what we're doing in pedagogy. We've had a bunch of nonsense being offered and teacher getting training and credit (for professional development) and it's never been questioned. And so, I guess I don't understand. It's the whole question of why is this surfacing to this level?
Q: What's your suspicion?
Janssen: I -- neither here nor there.
Lawrence: It's change. It's different. It is cutting edge. It's a blending of the art and science of teaching and historically all we've done is sat teachers in classrooms and delivered them professional development just like we deliver to students boring lecture.
Janssen: I've not seen a 25-year veteran teacher say I'm so fired up about what I am doing (like I have with this.) ... I've never seen this kind of excitement.
Lawrence: The rich data is really just emerging for a research team to really do an analysis.
Q: Some of the people who have talked to the Times about Pinellas' interest in Lastinger talk about it as if they believe this is your legacy. Hillsborough has Gates and Pinellas has this, board member Peggy O'Shea said. What do you say?
Janssen: I absolutely, 100 percent believe the best way to get this district to be No. 1 is through professional development. You've got great teachers, you're going to have great kids. And you've got to also build your leadership team. And, so, working with Lastinger, building our leadership as well -- it just all comes together. Evaluating them on a tougher instrument doesn't make people better. Giving a harder test doesn't make kids smarter. It's teaching them better.