Farewell but not goodbye

I’ve been a little quieter than usual on the blog lately for a number of reasons, chief among them that I and the rest of the Porter-Magee clan were able to escape to New Hampshire earlier this month. An annual tradition that takes us away from cell phone and mostly out of WiFi range and lets us swim and kayak and just enjoy each other.

Perhaps the biggest reason for my silence, however, is that, after nearly four years back working at Fordham (on my second tour, my first having started in 2002), I’ve decided to take a position as the Senior Advisor for Policy and Instruction at the College Board. There, I’ll be able to focus even more of my research, reading, and writing work on understanding classroom-level standards implementation and assessment issues.

The decision to leave Fordham is one of the most difficult of my professional career. I’ve never worked for or with an organization that is as committed to excellence as it is to an open exchange of ideas. While we at Fordham all share certain reform and policy ideals and principles, there is no expectation that we toe some predetermined “party line.” (This is clear not just in our internal conversations, but in the open—often public—debates that we all regularly have.) What Fordham has always stood for is not blind ideology, but rigor of thought. And that expectation of quality has pushed me to clarify my thinking, to improve my writing, and to develop a sharper picture of what instructional and curricular excellence actually looks like—or should look like. To say I’m grateful to have had the opportunity—now twice—to work with such an amazing team would be an understatement.

That’s also why I’m glad to not be leaving entirely. While I will be giving up the day to day work of managing our standards projects and reports, Mike and Checker have graciously agreed to let me stay on as a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow, and I will continue to write and edit the Common Core Watch blog. And the College Board has agreed to afford me the same editorial freedom that I enjoy today.

My career has always straddled policy and practice, and I’m not sure I will ever really be able to leave one behind. I was a classroom teacher before coming to Fordham the first time, and I left when I felt like I needed to learn more about what standards implementation actually meant for teachers and students. I jumped at the opportunity to work directly with teachers and students on curriculum and instruction first in the Catholic Schools Office of the Archdiocese of Washington, then at Achievement First. Over the past four years, I've had the chance to extend what I learned at AF, and I hope I’ve been able to bring some of those insights to wider audience. But four years in I find myself craving the chance to engage again more directly with teachers on issues of curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

This opportunity at the College Board gives me that chance. In short, I think this is a moment when excellence in assessment and instruction together could transform opportunities for students and I want to be part of the team that works to fulfill that promise.

So, another turn of the wheel for me and an opportunity to bring my day-to-day work closer to the teachers working so hard to ensure their students reach their full potential. But this time I will try to maintain a foothold in the world of policy as well and look forward to continuing to have conversations with all of you through this blog and other venues.

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