I loved Rudy Crew’s comment in his interview with Scholastic’s Wayne D”Orio about the plethora of proposals to improve schools. The question, Crew says, is “What’s this going to mean for a child on Monday morning?”
His comment reminded me of what I looked for in workshops when I was a teacher. “What am I going to get out of this that I can actually use with my students?” I would ask myself. Later on, when I was the presenter, I kept this mantra in mind: “What specifically can I give them that they don’t already know?” Later, I modified the question: “How can I get them to use what they already know to improve their teaching?” Because if it doesn’t make a difference for kids on Monday morning, it’s a useless exercise. Oh, maybe it was fun, and maybe it was a day to dress up and get out of the classroom, but if that’s all it is, you could pay slightly less and still dress up to go out to dinner. And you could add a nice wine.
So you’ve got to look at some of the latest initiatives and ask yourself what they’re going to mean for kids on Monday morning. And if you’re honest, you’ll have to say, for the most part, “Nothing.”
Core standards? A good idea with no real impact. RttT? Impact on a relative handful of students is a long way off. EduJobs? Status quo. Publishing teachers’ test scores? Could mean something for a child on Monday, but maybe not a good something. Turnaround schools? Remains to be seen.
Reducing class size in the lower grades? Yes, it makes an impact if the teacher takes advantage of it. Smaller secondary schools? Again, yes, if school personnel take advantage of the small size to focus on individual kids. Every child a reader by the end of second grade? Yes, yes, and yes. Challenging kids to think and problem solve rather than prepare for tests? Yes.
You’ll notice that all if these lower level initiatives depend upon strong, well trained, committed teachers and strong, well trained, committed principals. If we could forget about the politics of education and focus on kids, we actually might make some progress.
BTW -- As a follow-up to an earlier blog, David Telesca, the Connecticut superintendent placed on administrative leave in August after posting on Facebook about what an easy job he had, has asked his Board to appoint an impartial panel to decide his case. The board refused. In the meantime, an interim has been appointed.