from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bring teachers to the Table 

lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, entitled Bring Teachers to the Table . As a teacher, I have long believed that teachers should be part of any attempted reforms of our public schools and educational practices. And as I quoted educational historian Larry Cuban in my ”Blueberries” diary,
Policymakers and others who set out to overhaul schools encounter a fundamental paradox:  teachers and principals who block changes sought by reformers are supposedly the problem, yet these very same educators -- almost three million strong -- are the people who connect with more than fifty million children daily and do the essential work of schooling,  Inescapably, therefore, they also have to be the solution

Thus when addressing the need to react to schools that are identified as in needs of help I saw Reville write
Which approaches to turning around school performance are most successful? Which are practical and affordable?
, I hoped his answer would include teachers. It did.

I will offer a selection that gives the main import. As usual I urge you to read the entire article. And my commentary today will be minimal, as I am running a bit late this morning for our 1st day of our 2nd semester. I need to get to school to turn the heat on!

Here is the guts of that which I wish to bring to your attention
Naturally, the policy discussion migrates away from state bureaucracies. In Massachusetts, conversations on interventions and poor performance have focused on management prerogatives, turnaround partners, and chartering or privatizing failed schools. These strategies, like many others, have little or no research evidence to support their effectiveness.

Conspicuously absent in the debate on intervention has been the role and voices of teachers and teacher unions, arguably the front line troops in any ''turnaround" strategy. There seems to be a belief in some policy circles that school improvement can be accomplished in spite of teachers rather than with them.

Some of the assumptions embedded in the prominent strategies, management prerogatives, turnaround partners, chartering, and privatization imply that teachers are the problem rather than part of the solution, that the source of expertise on fixing school problems is external rather than internal or that current leadership is highly competent. Although each of these assumptions is sometimes true, none is always or typically correct.

Teachers and, certainly, unions don't have all the answers either. They are also sometimes the source of problems, but it is folly to shape school intervention and turnaround plans without extensively consulting teachers on policies and practices.

A common flaw of educational policies is that they take a ''one size fits all" approach to solving problems or meeting challenges. Not all failing schools fail for the same reasons. Therefore, not all successful school interventions will look alike. Our intervention policies will need to take into account the substantial variation in context: communities, leadership, curriculum and teaching, resources, students, demographics, mobility and a host of other factors. Our intervention policies will need to be strong but flexible and responsive to local circumstances. Above all, we will need policies and practices that those charged with implementing see as worthwhile and likely to succeed.

Reville also discusses how to get the unions involved as organizations, and lists some possible interventions. He closes with the following
We don't have much evidence to support any of the most prominently mentioned strategies, but this doesn't absolve the state of the obligation to get involved in helping educators improve teaching and learning in the Commonwealth's most challenged schools.

We already face a shortage of teachers. We can make those changes we do need if we do not include teachers as positive contributors. And there is little reason to assume they will participate positively if our approach to them is hostile and punitive.

Read the piece. Ponder it, offer your remarks. I will be waiting for them.
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