I'll be perfectly honest. As a teacher-owned and operated program,
we've wondered at times whether we're shooting ourselves in the foot by
not working with a large educational publisher. Anyone who has spent
time with our founder, Suzanne Klein, knows she is fiercely proud of
WriteSteps results and wants passionately to put our lessons in the
hands of as many teachers as possible.
Our Common Core release, which came out the first day of school last
fall, gave us the potential to reach a vast number of teachers in
classrooms across the country. Still, could we reach teachers across the
U.S. without a big national brand name?
The jury is still out. But in the meantime, educational publishers are
taking a beating in the news, with reports about changes in the industry
that have caused experienced writers and editors to leave their
profession in droves.
You can read about it yourself in the blog post, Afraid of Your Child’s Math Textbook? You Should Be
by Annie Kheegan, a longtime textbook writer and editor. Her scathing
indictment of the field she proudly served for over 20 years is
incredibly discouraging. It’s terrible news for our children, just when
the Common Core Standards offer the possibility of promising reform.
Especially disheartening are the examples she describes of senior executives unwilling to correct serious errors or deliver on their Common Core claims.
Kheegan quotes a senior executive’s response to her
concern that a project did not meet its Common Core
specs: “It doesn’t matter if there aren’t enough
correlations; our marketing materials say only
that we ‘expose’ students to the Common Core.”
These kinds of reports are also voiced in a new book by another
industry insider, Beverlee Jobrack, a 25-year veteran of educational
publishing who retired in 2007 as editorial director for one of the
largest companies in the business. For a summary of her story, see this review
in Education Week
. According to Jobrack, when it comes to the Common Core:
"Here's what's happening right now in textbook land…
They're not changing anything in the curriculum.
They are simply relabeling."
Our Own Publishing Story: The Road Less Traveled by Suzanne Klein, Founder & CEO
I am dismayed that so many publishers have apparently simply relabeled
their programs and handed them to districts with documents stating that
they now meet Common Core requirements. We rewrote WriteSteps from the
ground up to give students the skills outlined in the new standards.
Our lessons were not developed out of desire for profit. They evolved
from an experience of fulfillment. Here’s a little about what has gone
into them, and who stands behind our name.
When I started WriteSteps in 2007, it was a tiny operation. I won’t
recap my 18-year evolution from teacher to writing coach to curriculum
creator; you can read those details here
if you want. I’ll just say that as a K-5 teacher, I found great success
teaching writing to my own students, and finally said “yes” to repeated
requests that I publish my lessons.
Compiling those lessons for publication took a long time. But knowing
there’s a world of students finding their writing voices with them is
enormously gratifying. And knowing I’ve helped a lot of teachers develop
their chops as great writing instructors… well, it conjures up that
MasterCard commercial we know and love: priceless
The WriteSteps Team – Best of the Best
In 2010, I read the Common Core Standards and realized that teaching
was going to have to change if states were really going to implement
them. I couldn’t single-handedly re-create over 500 lessons to instill
Common Core writing skills for students ages 5-11. But I was careful who
I brought aboard to help.
Seven truly outstanding teachers joined WriteSteps to work on our Common Core release. Among them are National
Writing Project fellows, literacy coaches, M.A.’s in Curriculum,
teachers of the year, and longtime classroom veterans revered for their
knowledge and skill
Everyone at WriteSteps is motivated by a desire to serve children and
teachers. I know the writers and editors who have worked in the
educational publishing establishment are no different. The heartbreak in
Annie Kheegan’s blog is palpable. I suppose the big difference at
WriteSteps – and the reason I’m glad we took the path we did – is that
we’ve been able to safeguard the integrity of our people and our
program. I am not kidding – we are driven by excellence, altruism, and
service – not the bottom line.
For the sake of our children, not to mention the heroic teachers and
principals who give the best part of themselves every day at school, I
sincerely hope the revelations about educational publishing spark a
change in the system.
For those who can forgo the need for a big name publisher in exchange
for quality, coherence, and Common Core integrity, WriteSteps is here.
Suzanne's Message Highlighted in NAESP Blog
At the annual conference of the National Association of Elementary
School Principals (NAESP), held in Seattle last month, Suzanne's talk
attracted the attention of David Hanson, a principal from North Dakota,
who blogs for the NAESP. See his review, entitled "The Write Stuff," here
Staff Spotlight: Delightful Dondi!
Dondi Daugherty is the wizard who arranges all of Suzanne's national
speaking engagements. She takes care of logistics wherever Suzanne
travels. That's five appearances before principals and literacy
educators already in 2012! Dondi also makes the updates to our
WriteSteps teacher binders and communicates those changes to Todd, her
husband and our Tech Guru, so he can make corresponding updates to our
online "virtual teacher binder," eWriteSteps. The two work from their home offices in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Dondi and Todd have two daughters, Teagan and Ciara, who are six 6
and 2 years old. They are proud that Teagan is among two kindergarteners
in her school who were recently honored for learning all of their sight
phrases. At the principal's barbecue honoring her, Dondi and Todd made
sure they spoke to their principal about WriteSteps!
"As a parent, I'm really excited about what we are offering," Dondi
said. "I would love to see it help schools in Nevada the way it has
helped in other places. My kids are at just the right age, and I'd
really like to see them grow up with WriteSteps."
"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking,
what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means.
What I want and what I fear."
~Joan Didion, American Journalist and Novelist