Monday, March 31, 2008

I Like WERA

Last Wednesday I was supposed to drive over to Sea-Tac for the WERA conference. I'd worked it out with my aunt and uncle that I could stay with them, and I was going to see some other family as well--it would have been a fun trip.

Wednesday comes, though, and I'm still unable to talk (an entire week of laryngitis FTW!), and the thought of getting in the Ford and driving 6 hours through a snowstorm isn't appealing to me. At all.

So, I flew. It cost $210 dollars that I don't really have, but given that a) I'd already paid the conference registration fee out of pocket and b) I'm going to be presenting at WERA next year, I figured it was a good investment.

The flight over was great. I literally walked right on to the airplane, whereupon we sat on the runway for 45 minutes de-icing because of the absolutely insane spring weather we've had around here. Once I finally got to Sea-Tac I took a cab over to the hotel and caught the tail end of Dean Fink's keynote address, where I also met the Science Goddess for the first time.

(Aside: I'm glad that I made a good impression, because my croaking and coughing certainly didn't seem very endearing. Thanks, Goddess, for carrying the conversation ;-))

After that we got into the heart of the WERA conferences, the sessions. The first one I attended was by a group of administrators from Highline talking about how to make the MAP more meaningful. They've done some pretty fascinating correlation work on how the MAP and the WASL line up; the piece that I wish they had addressed more was on how they made the results mean anything to the teachers. That's going to be my big project next year during my administrative internship, and I think I have a good way to make it make sense to my team--come to next year's spring WERA conference if you want to find out more!

Then, lunch. I ate with TSG and some other people from her district, and with The Exhausted Intern, another crackerjack blogger from Washington State. It was interesting listening to her perspective on the job search process; I've got a long ways to go before I'm ready to cross that Rubicon.

My after lunch session was....meh. It was a case study of the different leadership styles at two elementary schools, which should have been right up my alley, but the presentation was waaaay too academic to be meaningful. There was a good thread that he had on the importance of shared leadership, though, so I was able to derive something good from the hour.

The last session of the day was superior. Joe Stevens is a professor out of the University of Oregon who has contracted with OSPI to do a review of all the commercially available formative and diagnostic assessments available for schools; he gave a great presentation on the different kinds of testing that teachers can do, and a good preview of what his final product for OSPI will look like. This is one of those things that OSPI is doing that actually looks extremely valuable; I'm excited to see what it will be. You can find his Powerpoint presentation here.

After that I went to the airport and sat on my wide ass for 5 hours. I'd booked a flight back to Spokane at 9:15, which was the only one I could get a reservation for, but every other time I've flown I'd been able to exchange the ticket for an earlier flight. It didn't happen for me this time, which made me wish that I had stayed for the social hour at the conference. I know a lot more about Sea-Tac than I did before, though, and the next time I'm there I'm certainly going to give the massage bar a try. That looked delightful.

In short, it was a good time. I wish that the WERA conferences were more accessible to classroom teachers, because there's been a ton of good content there both times that I've attended. The trouble that I see, from an Eastside perspective, is that the rooms are terribly expensive ($179 a night, plus parking, plus internet access, plus food, plus....), the conference registration fee isn't cheap ($195 if you registered early, $220 if you were late), and there's considerable cost involved in even getting to SeaTac to attend. Were I an administrator, I'd have to seriously balance the costs between sending 1 person to WERA, or 6 people to the WORD conference which was in Spokane this year.

It's worth it, but in this era when so many districts are in budget crisis mode, I think they're going to have an increasingly difficult time making those connections with the classroom.

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2 Comments:

Blogger The Science Goddess said...

I'm glad you made it home safe and sound. I hope you're feeling better!

I agree that professional organizations are going to have to consider how to reach their target audience in an age of ever shrinking school budgets. I suppose it could be argued that WERA is more "appropriate" for school leaders, but until educational research is placed into the hands of teachers to use, its potential will not be reached.

8:48 AM  
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7:13 AM  

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