September 29, 2010

Are you on the "waiting ..." list?

My intent is not to rant. So, please don't take this as a rant. 

Photo © fengschwing via flickr™

I didn't watch much of the Waiting for Superman educational stuff on TV on Sunday. While I am sure there is some merit to the "documentary," it is a shame that teacher bashing is the only way that education can gain "focus" in the national spotlight. Education needs to change, there truly is no doubt about it. The reform focus always seems to be on the people, not the structure.

I will not going to argue for more money (where would it come from?). I'm not going to argue for more parental involvement because it is most likely not going to improve dramatically overnight. I won't even argue for reform because the reform models that are pushed do not put a focus on the things that really need attention. The way you "fix" education is to focus on the actual teaching and learning that goes on in our classrooms.

(1) We need a unified, guaranteed, and viable curriculum for our students. National common core standards are on the way and the word on the street is that Michigan's expectations already exceed the national standards. What will that mean for additional curriculum work? I would argue that a focus needs to be put on the GLCEs and HSCEs, and subsequently the development of power standards that work for our students. A solid curriculum with teachers teaching that curriculum using best practices makes a great deal of difference for student results. Furthermore, kids must read and write more frequently.

Mike Schmoker's Results Now is a top notch book about a way to reform teaching and learning. 

(2) The system itself is designed to allow for three months off in the summer. Think of the amount of time we spend re-teaching in the fall ... or "reviewing" because the students have lost some of the enduring knowledge they learned the year before. We need a way to allow for summer learning, especially for at risk students. Of course, an argument could be made that many of our kids would be considered at risk, based only on our demographics. Even the school day doesn't fit for some situations and families. The kind of reform that would work would be reform that looks at real situations and allows for creative ways to educate all kids. If we do not consider a system where students attend "year round," we should look closely at summer school programs for our most at risk students.

Summer means fun, but it also should include learning. Kids lose too much knowledge in the summer.

(3) Teaching itself is a tough job, and an isolated one. We need to find a way to create time for teachers to work together to plan and discuss student work and effort. I know we've done work with Professional Learning Communities, but we need to find a way to make the work ongoing, continuous, and more frequent.

My daughter Amber who is going to be a teacher (sophomore in college) texted me while I was writing this post and said, "Let's go see Waiting for Superman."

It'll be a controversial movie and will give attention to education, and probably, ultimately, the teaching profession. Teachers will be in the spotlight. Are we doing all we can in our classrooms? Let's prove to the media that good teaching makes a big difference!!!

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