It Really Is That Simple

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Every time I visit a school, I find myself pondering what drew me to these environments. I loved school. I still do. Currently, I teach in a higher education environment, one I fear will follow the same negative, standardized path I left behind in the public K-12 realm.

That’s a real shame; and sitting in this high school auditorium, I rack my brain trying to remember what drew me in so successfully over 45 years ago.

I am here to observe a student teacher in a small, nearly rural school and I realize “racking my brain” is the reason I can’t come up with what I miss about school. I needed to rack my heart. The thing that made me love school was that it became my home. My refuge. My laboratory. My playground.

I am recapturing that feeling today watching a beginning teacher build rapport with students who show real interest in the subject. The environment is chaotic, dynamic, but never out of control. There is freedom and movement and students are at ease as they interact with one another and with the student teacher.

But this is a fine arts class. The teacher and students will not be prepped and tested endlessly. They are free to explore the information, to ask questions, investigate tangents. But how will we know they have learned anything?

We’ll know by what they’re doing everyday as they interact with one another other and with the teacher! The same way we’ll know they have mastered math, history, or English – by what they can produce – in a real world situation rather than on the one day they take a standardized test.

Oh, but then we will have to trust the classroom teachers’ assessments. Those same teachers the pols and public malign – until we need them to act as nurse, counselor, mother, father, friend, or mentor.

Allowing teachers to do what they do best – teach – without negative interference, is one step toward making schools real communities. Healthy communities foster a sense of belonging. Becoming a part of something important provides self-worth. Self-worth engenders the intrinsic motivation to learn. A curious, motivated mind is capable of reaching its fullest potential.

It really is that simple. Allow teachers to do their jobs and to bring to it all their personal gifts and talents.

Allowing – dare I say encouraging – teachers to teach as they see fit will not solve all the world’s problems immediately, but it is the one step that can turn schools into havens of learning. And that learning is the catalyst for the solutions we need.

It’s that simple.

But, it’s not easy.

And it’s not quick.

Politicians appear unwilling to listen or to wait; they must do something for which they can take credit – and the more complicated the solution the better. Good outcomes will never come from these kinds of adulterated maneuvers. Start trusting those with the most knowledge and experience. And as a teacher probably told you, use your common sense.

 

NCTQ: To Whom Are You Accountable?

Who defines a quality teacher education program? Apparently, NCTQ does. But under what authority? With what documentation? Within what parameters?

I know; who has time to check on all those particulars? Hopefully many people!

NCTQ just sent notices to teacher prep programs throughout the country, over 1100 institutions in all, to let them know how miserably most of them scored on NCTQ performance standards. The fact that the majority of these teacher prep programs never sent or gave access to their data to have it scored should make one wonder how much data could have been reviewed. Well, not much, because NCTQ did not have the data in hand. They appear to have used publicly available data when possible and made sweeping judgments from it. Schools that did not comply  with their demands to produce “data” were still included in their “report” and found wanting.

This travesty is not a compliance or accountability  issue. College and university teacher education programs are accountable to multiple entities such as accrediting bodies and state boards of education. But they are NOT accountable to NCTQ.

Organizations such as NCTQ, that set themselves up to oversee others without sanction are at best bully pulpits, set up to coerce teacher education programs to toe the standardization line. (See The Bully Politics of Education Reform.)

Public school teachers and administrators have already been hamstrung by the education accountability measures in place throughout the U.S. Colleges and universities must remain the places where dissent is not only allowed, but encouraged. If college faculty become bound to arbitrary guidelines set by those with unseen agendas, education may become completely bastardized by those operating under the auspices of reform.

“In addition to…

“In addition to Co-CEOs Doug McCurry and Dacia Toll, the Achievement First management team includes a Vice President for Information Technology, a Chief of Staff, a Senior Director of Talent Development, seven (7) Regional Superintendents, a Senior Director of Facilities, a Chief Academic Officer, a Chief Information Officer, a Senior Adviser, a Vice President for Recruitment, a Vice President for, Leadership Development, a Vice President for Business Information Systems, a Chief External Officer, a Senior Director for Data Strategy, a Senior Director for Strategic Partnerships, a Senior Director for Marketing & Communications, a Vice President for Development, a Chief Financial and Operating Officer, a Vice President for School Operations, a Vice President for External Relations and a Senior Director for Human Capital”

Complete blog at http://jonathanpelto.com/2013/06/17/crocodile-tears-from-achievement-first-inc/

 

Need I say more about top-heavy education administrations?

 

Saving Education

http://m.roanoke.com/mobile/2002893-29/a-letter-to-the-ones-left-behind.html

The only movement that will drastically improve education is one led by teachers. As if they don’t have enough to do already! (For an eloquently stated teacher viewpoint, see above link.)

Teachers must take charge of the educational process. They must take back control of their classrooms. They must make curricular decisions. They must rigorously evaluate themselves and their colleagues. They must be an integral part of the employment process for all those connected to their schools.

Sounds like an administrator’s job? There lies the existing problem.

Teachers have been set aside from the REAL work of educating and been assigned the clerical work that has little, if anything, to do with learning. This demotion of teachers has allowed the administrative rank in education to swell to ungainly proportions. All those chiefs must have work to do, so, voluminous data charts are developed and new evaluatory practices are implemented.

I am not putting all educational administrators into this negative category as some treat teachers as the equal work partners they are. However, those who ascribe to top-down power structures that view teachers as lesser intellectuals than principals, central administrators or politicians, are the problem in education, not the answer.

Parents: demand the best education for your children and allow teachers to use their expertise to facilitate it.

Students: value good teaching by maximizing your learning efforts.

Administrators: support teachers by providing and managing the infrastructure that facilitates student success.

Politicians: work toward solutions to societal challenges, allowing teachers and administrators to focus on their jobs and not yours.

Teachers: take back your power in the classroom and use it to inspire, educate and motivate.

Listening shows respect

Listening shows respect

Something to think about in regard to educational reform. Respectful listening is missing and it is integral to positive outcomes.