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2019Teachers’ VoicesWork Environment Conditions That Impact TeacherPractice and Program QualityMarin CountyCenter for the Study of Child Care EmploymentInstitute for Research on Labor and EmploymentUniversity of California, BerkeleyMarisa SchlieberMarcy WhitebookLea J.E. AustinAline HankeyMichael Duke

Teachers’ Voices:Work Environment Conditions That ImpactTeacher Practice and Program Quality— Marin County 2019 Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. All rights reserved.Suggested Citation: Schlieber, M., Whitebook, M., Austin, L.J.E. Hankey, A., & Duke, M. (2019). Teachers’Voices: Work Environment Conditions That Impact Teacher Practice and Program Quality — Marin County.Berkeley, CA: Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley.Center for the Study of Child Care EmploymentInstitute for Research on Labor and EmploymentUniversity of California, Berkeley2521 Channing Way #5555, Berkeley, CA 94720(510) 642-2035cscce.berkeley.eduEstablished in 1999, the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) is focused on achievingcomprehensive public investments that enable the early childhood workforce to deliver high-quality careand education for all children. To achieve this goal, CSCCE conducts research and policy analysis aboutthe characteristics of those who care for and educate young children and examines policy solutionsaimed at improving how our nation prepares, supports, and rewards these early educators to ensureyoung children’s optimal development. CSCCE provides research and expert analysis on topics thatinclude: compensation and economic insecurity among early educators; early childhood teacherpreparation; access to educational opportunities and work environments; and early childhood workforcedata sources and systems. CSCCE also works directly with policymakers and a range of national, state, andlocal organizations to assess policy proposals and provide technical assistance on implementing soundearly care and education workforce policy.This study and report were generously supported by the Marin Community Foundation, First 5 Marin, theMarin Child Care Council, the Marin Child Care Commission, the Marin County Office of Education, andthe Marin County Board of Supervisors.Special thanks to the program administrators and teaching staff who gave so generously of their time totake part in this study. Additional thanks to the College of Marin and members of the Marin QualityCounts Consortia as well as the tireless early care and education providers for their support of thisproject. We are also grateful to Da-yup Kim for her assistance in preparing this report.Design: Aline HankeyEditor: Deborah Meacham

Table of ContentsExecutive Summary1Introduction2Key Findings5About This Report10Study Design11Study Overview12Goals Guiding the Study12A Profile of the Survey Respondents13Teaching Staff13Personal Characteristics13Professional Background15Compensation16Benefits19Program Leaders19A Guide to SEQUAL Findings20Interpreting Agreement and Disagreement With SEQUAL Items21Findings22Domain 1: Teaching Supports23Dimension 1: Curriculum23Dimension 2: Child Observation and Assessment25Dimension 3: Materials and Equipment27Dimension 4: Support Services for Children and Families28Dimension 5: Staffing and Professional Responsibilities30Variations in Teaching Supports Findings by Site and TeacherCharacteristics31Domain 2: Learning Community34Dimension 1: Professional Development Opportunities34Dimension 2: Applying Learning36Variations in Learning Community Findings by Site and TeacherCharacteristics37Teachers’ Voices – Marin Countyi

Domain 3: Job Crafting38Dimension 1: Decision Making38Dimension 2: Teamwork40Dimension 3: Input41Variations in Job Crafting Findings by Site and Teacher Characteristics 42Domain 4: Adult Well-Being44Dimension 1: Economic Well-Being44Dimension 2: Wellness Supports49Dimension 3: Quality of Work Life51Variations in Adult Well-Being Findings by Site and Teacher52CharacteristicsDomain 5: Program LeadershipWhat Teaching Staff Said55About Supervisors55About Leaders56Leaders by RoleFinal Thoughts and RecommendationsAppendicesAppendix A: Study Design59636464Survey Instruments64Sampling Frame and Selection65Analysis Plan66Population and Sample6667Personal Characteristics67Professional Background67Compensation67Appendix C: Tables and FiguresTeachers’ Voices – Marin County57Data Collection ProceduresAppendix B: Description of Program LeadersEndnotes556870ii

List of TablesTable 1. Teaching Staff TenureTable 2. Wages by Educational Attainment and Program TypeTable 3. Educational Background, by PositionTable 4. Race and Ethnicity, by PositionTable 5. Hourly Wage, by PositionTable C.1. Center Population and SampleTable C.2. Response Rate of Centers, Program Leaders, and Teaching StaffTable C.3. Response Rate of Teaching Staff and Program Leaders, by CenterList of FiguresFigure 1. Professional Development OpportunitiesTeachers’ Voices – Marin Countyiii

Teachers’ Voices – Marin Countyiv


IntroductionTHERE IS BROAD CONSENSUS that high-quality environments for youngchildren depend on teachers who are skilled at nurturing their development and learning,yet low pay and inadequate working conditions routinely hamper teachers in their efforts toapply their skills and knowledge.i This condition exists among teachers in early education aswell as K-12 classrooms, fueling the ubiquitous challenge of recruiting and retaining askilled teaching workforce across the age spectrum. K-12 teachers nationwide are nowcalling attention to how inadequate pay and poor working conditions are driving economicinsecurity and turnover and how insufficient classroom resources continue to hobble theirpractice, leading to large-scale demonstrations for increased public investment in education.With teachers increasingly engaging in the public sphere and a growing number of electedofficials prioritizing support for schools and teaching staff, the demand for change to thesystems that prepare, support, and compensate educators continues to build.The Unique Challenge of Early ChildhoodThe voices of early educators — those working with children from infancy throughpreschool — are rarely heard, and public awareness of the challenges facing this workforceremains low. Compared to their K-12 peers, early educators are less organized and vocalabout their situation, but a persistent state of teacher crisis casts a pall over efforts to ensurehigh-quality early care and education (ECE) for all children prior to kindergarten.Access to unions and professional organizations that advocate for benefits and supportiveworking conditions in the K-12 workplace are far rarer for early educators. Perhaps as aresult, early educators often don’t have even basic expectations of working conditions —such as program policies providing for payment for planning time, staff meetings, andprofessional development; a salary schedule; and provision of health, retirement, sick-, andvacation-leave benefits, nor are they typically the focus of strategies and policies toimprove the quality of early care and education services.ii In California, early educatorsconstitute one of the lowest-paid occupations, and members of this workforce are morelikely to live in poverty than other workers, including other teachers in the state.iiiThis study captures early educators’ perspectives about their work environments in nearly allcenters in Marin County, California, including those participating and not participating in aquality improvement initiative. It also examines how these environments impact teachingstaff practice and well-being. In order to teach to the best of their ability, educators requireTeachers’ Voices – Marin County2

work environments that support their ongoing learning, emphasize time without childresponsibilities for professional activities, and offer dependable benefits that ensure theirwell-being. Prioritizing workforce supports will lead to substantive progress towards asystem that is equitable, efficient, and effective for children, their families, and educatorsalike.Quality Rating and Improvement SystemsCurrently operational across 44 of the 50 states, Quality Rating and Improvement Systems(QRIS) have become a primary approach for quality improvement efforts intended tostrengthen early care and education systems within states and local municipalities. QualityCounts California is a statewide system that is implemented locally, at the county andregional level, with core standards shared across the state. While each QRIS assessesprogram quality in a comparable way, there is a degree of local control and flexibility.The elements incorporated into a system’s QRIS communicate important messages tostakeholders (including policymakers, teachers, and administrators) about the values andpriorities deemed most important for focusing resources and attention.iv While staffqualifications and training are among the most commonly assessed areas of quality andare included in nearly all QRIS, fewer systems to date include benchmarks related topositive and supportive teacher work environments.v The attention that a given QRIS paysto the workforce through staff education, professional development, compensation,benefits, and work environments may determine how practitioners invest their energies,how public resources and priorities are allocated, and the ultimate success of the QRISeffort itself.viQuality Improvement and Teacher Work EnvironmentsMarin County’s QRIS initiative implemented in 2015, Marin Quality Counts, is available tocenters throughout the county. Programs participating in Marin Quality Counts areeligible to receive one of five quality-level ratings based on the California QualityContinuum Framework Rating Matrix. These ratings range from “participating in qualitystandards” to “exceeding high quality standards.” Program ratings are calculated basedon licensing compliance, child observations and assessments, child health anddevelopmental screenings, ratios and group size, teacher and director qualifications,teacher–child interactions, and program environment. The latter of these areas, programenvironment, assesses the age and developmental appropriateness of three areas:materials, activities, and caregiver routines.vii Programs participating in Marin QualityTeachers’ Voices – Marin County3

Counts receive a variety of resources and supports intended to improve programpractices and ratings, including access to professional development, professional growthadvising, assessments/observations and data to inform practice and growth, stipends tosupport acquisition of academic coursework, program mini-grants, and access tocoaches to support professional and program improvement.Another QRIS, the Marin County PreK-3/ECE Quality Improvement Initiative has been inplace for nearly a decade. Through this initiative, the Marin Community Foundationsupports quality improvement activities — professional development, coaching, dataacquisition and use, early childhood mental health consultation, and academic growthadvising — in select preschool programs that partner with local elementary schools.viiiMarin County’s early education community recognizes the importance of addressing thelow compensation and challenging work environments that impact educators’ well-being.To inform current efforts to support programs as well as longer-term improvementstrategies, Marin County administrators, advocates, and other ECE stakeholders areinterested in exploring how program work environments can be strengthened, and to thisend, they are using the SEQUAL tool developed by the Center for the Study of Child CareEmployment (CSCCE). (For a description of SEQUAL methodology, see Appendix A.)SEQUAL provides insight into how centers support teaching staff and gathers informationon the range of conditions experienced by early educators across the county. Collectingteachers’ perspectives on the features of their work environments that best allow them toapply their skills and continue to develop their knowledge is a starting point forgenerating new avenues and solutions to enhance teacher practice and inform qualityimprovement.SEQUAL (Supportive Environmental Quality Underlying Adult Learning)To facilitate the process of bringing teachers’ voices into quality improvement strategies,CSCCE developed the Supportive Environmental Quality Underlying Adult Learning tool, orSEQUAL. As a multi-purpose validated tool, SEQUAL addresses five critical areas of teachers’learning environments: Teaching Supports, Learning Community, Job Crafting, AdultWell-Being, and Program Leadership. The SEQUAL study conducted in Marin Countyprovides a window into the daily realities of early childhood teaching staff employed inlicensed child care centers that participate in QRIS as well as those that do not.SEQUAL � Voices – Marin CountyJOBCRAFTINGADULTWELL-BEINGPROGRAMLEADERSHIP4

Key FindingsTransforming the way that the early education system values and supportsteacher working conditions requires sustained strategies implemented on multiple levels.The perspectives of teaching staff represented in this study can be used to inform qualityimprovement efforts and guide workforce policy in Marin County. These findingsunderscore the need for further changes in the practices and provision of professionalsupports, as well as the need for sufficient staffing to ensure that standards — includingbasic legal requirements like paid breaks — are consistently enforced. It is worth noting thatwhile almost one-half (45 percent) of teaching staff in the sample worked in the ECE field for16 years or more, 44 percent were only employed at their center for two years or less,highlighting turnover in the field. Three areas in particular require improvement based onteaching staff assessments of their work environments: Adult Well-Being, Staffing andTeaching Supports, and Professional Learning and Guidance.Adult Well-BeingEconomicTeaching staff struggled to meet monthly expenses and afford housing, health, transportation,and food costs as well as save for the future. 75% worried about having enough to pay theirfamilies’ monthly bills. 71% worried about paying housing costs. 62% worried about paying for routine healthcare costs. 49% worried about losing pay if they or someonein their family became ill. 39% worried about having enough food fortheir families.“I have two jobs because I can't affordto just be a preschool teacher. I teachpreschool in the morning and thenwork [another] job in the afternoon. Itputs me over 50 hours a week, I wish Icould just pursue my passion of beinga teacher, but it’s not possible. I amvery happy in the classroom, butsometimes having the other jobdragging me down and theexhaustion of it all gets to me.”– Assistant TeacherTeachers’ Voices – Marin County5

Quality of Work LifeTeaching staff reported experiencing stressful workplace dynamics like intimidation, unequaldistribution of workload, favoritism, or a lack of opportunities for input in their program. 51% reported that they did not feel confident that their complaints (if voiced) would beconsidered fairly.46% reported that other staff may not always be held equally responsible for doingtheir share of work.43% reported that staff members received preferential treatment at the expense ofothers.36% reported that bullying among adults or staff or co-workers was tolerated intheir program.Health and SafetyMany teaching staff reported that their programs lacked basic health and safety practices. 41% reported that their program did not provide sufficient comfortable places for adultsto sit and be with children.39% reported that their program did not provide a safe place for their personalbelongings.27% assessed the ability to take paid breaks during the workday as undependable.23% reported that their program does not provide a staff room or area away fromchildren for breaks or private conversation.17% reported that they could not depend on using their paid sick leave when ill.“My school does not have a staff lounge or place for adults only, whichduring breaks can make it very difficult to wind down or decompress.”– Assistant TeacherTeachers’ Voices – Marin County6

Staffing and Teaching SupportsSufficient StaffingTeaching staff assessed staffing levels as insufficient to engage in practices necessary topromote children’s learning and to improve their practice. 73% felt the practice of hiring new staff quickly in the event of turnover was unreliable. More than one-half (51%) reported that there were not enough staff available to givechildren individual attention, and 29% did not agree that there are trainedsubstitutes/floaters available to help. 28% agreed that frequent changes in staff make it difficult to try new ways to teach.Time for Professional ResponsibilitiesTeaching staff used their own unpaid time or time while supervising children on the playgroundor during naps to complete their professional responsibilities. 48% spent time doing paperwork during paid time while also being responsiblefor children.42% spent time during paid work hours planning curriculum activities in the past week.More than one-third (35%) reported that they did not have dedicated time, aside fromnap or playground time, to discuss work issues with other teachers.Professional Development and GuidanceSufficient and Appropriate TrainingTeaching staff characterized training to support their work with children and families asinsufficient. Less than two-thirds (64%) agreed that they had been trained on how to useassessments and observations to talk with families about their children. 56% agreed that they had received guidance on how to use the informationfrom assessments and observations in their teaching.Less than one-half (47%) agreed that sufficient training about teaching children withchallenging behaviors was available to them. Less than one-half (44%) agreed that training for supporting family needs was availableto them.Teachers’ Voices – Marin County7

Support for Working With Dual Language Learners and Their FamiliesAt the time of the survey, 81% of teaching staff reported working in classrooms with childrenwho speak another language in addition to English. 63% reported that the training available to them for teaching children who are duallanguage learners was insufficient.47% reported that outside resources were insufficient in assisting them if they havea problem communicating due to a language barrier.GuidanceTeaching staff reported an absence of guidance from program leaders in supporting theirprofessional practice. Only 39% agreed that once a month, their supervisors meet with them to discusstheir teaching practice. 35% did not agree that they meet with their supervisor at least once a year todevelop a personalized professional development plan.Access, Payment, and RewardStaff members reported difficulties in accessing or paying for professional developmentactivities or receiving remuneration for advancing their skills or education. More than one-half (51%) could not reliably adjust their work schedule in order toparticipate in professional development activities. 42% could not depend on compensation for routine professional activities, includingwork outside of regular work hours, parent conferences, and evening or weekend events. 24% reported that their employer would not pay some or all of theirprofessional development expenses.RecommendationsMarin County has made significant investments in and taken critical steps toward improvingthe quality of early care and education services. Notwithstanding the investment ofresources and supports, the working conditions of teaching staff as captured in this studysuggest further efforts are needed to support teacher practice and well-being necessary forquality services.Teachers’ Voices – Marin County8

Leaders in Marin County have an opportunity to shape expectations and codify standardsfor early educator work environments. The following recommendations are provided toinform efforts in the county to improve the quality of early childhood jobs and programs.1. Develop workplace standards, such as guidance on appropriate levels of paid planningtime, which are necessary for educators to engage in professional practice and toalleviate conditions that cause educator stress. Use existing models, such as theInternational Labor Organization Policy Guidelines and the Model WorkStandards, to support this process.2. Provide financial resources and other assistance specifically designed to enableprograms and providers to comply with work environment standards in a reasonableperiod of time.3. Embed work environment standards in the QRIS scoring systems to emphasizetheir importance and ensure that programs cannot achieve the highest ratingswithout addressing work environment standards.4. Develop and implement training programs that support programs leaders, supervisors,and coaches to address work environment issues. Program leaders, supervisors, andcoaches all require support and training on how to implement and sustain these typesof changes.5. Provide funding to institutions of higher education and training programs to developand offer classes and workshops related to work environment standards, rights of theteaching staff on the job, and the critical importance of economic, emotional, andphysical well-being among adults in the workplace.6. Institute strategies that engage early educators in the process of informing qualityimprovement and regularly collect data to assess how they experience the workenvironment.Capturing the experiences and perspectives of early educators working directly with childrenpresents an opportunity to further refine and strengthen the policies, practices, andresources necessary to facilitate a high-quality system that supports children and theirteachers alike. The findings from the Marin County SEQUAL study presented in the followingpages, coupled with forthcoming resources such as the Model Work Standards and theSEQUAL companion document, are intended to inform decision making and guide qualityimprovement strategies county-wide.Teachers’ Voices – Marin County9

About This ReportTHE FOLLOWING REPORT PRESENTS the findings from the 2019 MarinCounty SEQUAL study and shares the perspectives of teaching staff in licensed child carecenters throughout the county, including centers that participate in one or both of MarinCounty’s quality improvement initiatives (Marin Quality Counts and the ECE QualityImprovement Project) as well as centers that do not participate in either initiative. Followinga description of the study design, this report will explore major findings drawn fromteaching staff responses. The report is divided into three sections:1) Study Design shares a study overview, the goals guiding the study, a profile of thesurvey respondents, and a guide to the findings;2) Findings outlines teaching staff responses to items in each of the five SEQUALdomains, including an analysis of how responses varied by site characteristics; and3) Appendices presents additional information on the study design, which includessurvey instruments and analysis, characteristics of program leaders, and additionaltables and figures.Teachers’ Voices – Marin County10


Study OverviewIn 2019, researchers from CSCCE implemented a SEQUAL study in Marin County to examine howteaching staff employed at center-based programs across the county assessed their workenvironments. The study took into consideration all licensed child care centers in the county,including those participating in a quality improvement initiative (Marin Quality Counts and theECE Quality Improvement Project) and those not participating in any such initiative. Teachingstaff (teachers and assistant teachers) completed an online survey — the SEQUAL for TeachingStaff — to capture perceptions of their work environments and provide information about theirdemographic background, educational preparation, and work experience, including their currentposition, job tenure, and compensation. In addition, program leaders filled out an online surveyto provide contextual information about their centers. They also answered questions about theirown demographic and professional background and current job role.Marin has 131 child care centers, all of which were initially considered for inclusion in the study.However, 47 centers were excluded because they either declined to participate at the onset ofthe study, did not provide full contact information for staff, or employed fewer than two staffmembers. The remaining 84 centers were invited to participate. The final sample included 67centers, 29 program leaders, and 163 members of teaching staff. Of these 67 centers, 39participated in a quality improvement initiative (Marin Quality Counts or both Marin QualityCounts and the ECE Quality Improvement Project), while 28 centers did not participate in anyquality improvement initiative. By program type, 49 centers were Title 22 programs, 10 centerswere California State Preschool Programs (CSPP), and seven centers were Head Start programs;45 percent of Title 22, 90 percent of CSPP, and 100 percent of Head Start programsparticipated in a quality improvement initiative.For a more detailed description of the study methodology, study instruments, sampling frameand selection, population and sample, response rates, and analysis plan, please see Appendix A:Study Design and Appendix C: Tables and Figures.Goals Guiding the StudyThe study surveyed teaching staff employed at center-based programs in Marin County,examining how they assessed their work environments overall and across specific domains, ascaptured by the SEQUAL survey instrument (see description, p. 4). In addition, the studyexamined how assessments varied by: The center’s participation in a quality and improvement initiative;The auspices or type of program (Title 22, California State Preschool Program, and HeadStart); andTeaching staff characteristics, including position, tenure, and age group of children in theclassroom.Teachers’ Voices – Marin County12

A Profile of the Survey RespondentsTeaching StaffThe detailed portrait of teaching staff in our sample (n 163) notes differences among staffmembers based on job role and other characteristics. Regarding differences among staffmembers, we will note statistically significant differences (p .05) with the phrasing “morelikely to” or “less likely to.” When there is a trend in the data that is not statisticallysignificant, we will use the phrase “tended to” or report a descriptor (e.g., nearly all, vastmajority, one-half) along with the percentages.Among teaching staff, 27 percent worked as assistant teachers and 73 percent as teachers.ixThe majority of teaching staff (76 percent) in the sample were employed full-time at theircenter: the average number of hours per week was 33, and the median number of monthsper year was 11.Personal CharacteristicsGender and AgeNearly all teaching staff in the sample were female (99 percent). Teaching staff were 43years old on average. The vast majority of teaching staff (80 percent) were more than 30years old. Teaching staff working in Head Start programs tended to be older (average age:46 years), compared to teaching staff working in CSPP programs (average age: 42 yearsold).Family CharacteristicsA majority (60 percent) of teaching staff in the sample reported their relationship status asmarried or living with a partner. In addition, only 17 percent had a child under the age offive living in the household, while less than one-half (42 percent) had a child between theages of 6 and 18. Teachers between the ages of 30 and 49 were more likely to report havinga child under the age of 18 living in their household.Race and EthnicityOf the teaching staff in the sample, 51 percent identified as white (non-Hispanic/Latino), 29percent as Hispanic/Latino, 5 percent as Asian, 4 percent as black/African American,2 percent as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 1 percent as American Indian orAlaska Native, 5 percent as multiracial, and 3 percent as other.xTeachers’ Voices – Marin County13

Country of OriginThirty-two percent of all teaching staff were born outside of the United States. Theircountries of origin include Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, France, India, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru,and Thailand. Among teachers, 35 percent were born outside of the United States; amongassistant teachers, this figure was 21 percent.Languages SpokenTeaching staff in the sample and the children they serve were linguistically diverse: one-half(50 percent) of teaching staff reported speaking another language in addition to English.Twenty-two percent of teaching staff reported being fluent in Spanish and 8 percent inChinese, including Cantonese or Mandarin. Additional languages include French, Gujarati,Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Thai, and Urdu.Teaching staff working in CSPP programs reported higher rates of linguistic diversity. Morethan two-thirds (68 percent) of teaching staff reported speaking another language inaddition to English, compared to those working in Title 22 (45 percent) or Head Startprograms (58 percent).The vast majority (81 percent) of teaching staff reported children in their classroom whospeak another language other than English. Examining by program type, all teaching staffworking in Head Start programs and the vast majority (92 percent) of teaching staff workingin CSPP programs reported linguistic diversity in their classroom. Of the languages thatchildren speak in addition to English, 73 percent of teaching staff reported Spanish and 16percent Chinese, including Cantonese or Mandarin. A variety of other languages were alsoreported, including Farsi, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian,T

Marin Child Care Council, the Marin Child Care Commission, the Marin County Office of Education, and the Marin County Board of Supervisors. Special thanks to the program administrators and teaching staff who gave so generously of their time to take part in this study. Additional thanks to the College of Marin

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