A Place for Missouri Educators to Connect
This article (http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/06/09/33stigler_ep.h29.html?tkn=ZXNF%2B5NPgtYLpASFzplp5bezZXJ5ujZ0x1%2FM&cmp=clp-edweek) provides a much better approach to teacher improvement than what the high and mighty U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan and Bill Gates are proposing. I find it extremely frustrating that those in a position of power, either in a monetary sense or political sense, propose, support and push for things that are completely inapprorpiate for education. Most of what the federal government proposes for education harms us, instead of helps us (ie, NCLB). This is yet another example. Duncan and Gates are supporting merit pay based on student performance. This is not how to improve teacher performance. If either one of these individuals had spent anytime in education they would know the following: One, it is unreasonable to base teacher pay on student performance because teachers do not control the make up of students they get from year to year. Second, Duncan is also an advocate of standardized testing, which I’m guessing is what he would want this based on. Seriously? Standardized testing? My worst teaching occurs when I’m cramming information into my kids head for standardized testing; this is information they will soon forget because it was simply memorized to get a better score for the district. My best teaching occurs when I don’t give a darn about tests; I am solely focused on student learning.
I am not always an advocate of doing what other countries do in education simply because they have better test scores than us (which is another ball of wax I will save for another writing). However, the approach suggested by Deming in this article is great. It is similar to the Professional Learning Communities so many districts have found to be successful in the United States. It requires colleagues to come together in a respectful and collegial nature to help one another figure out what they’re doing that’s working and what they’re doing that’s not. This team approach has proven to yeild some of the highest results in student achievement.
The tough part is that it will require a change of culture in many buildings. It requires teachers to not be afraid of admitting that something they’re doing is not effective. And, beyond that, it requires them to purposefully change their approach. (I find that some teachers continue to do a certain strategy, method, etc. despite the fact they know it’s not effective). This will also require teachers to work together. For so long, teachers have been isolated in their own little classroom where the only reflective person is themself. Two (or more) minds are always better than one. In addition, administrators must take the lead on requiring this of their building AND being a part of these teams. We need administrators to be instructional leaders, not just managers. Their experience and expertise can shed light on a situation that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
So, how do we make things like this happen? We need leaders IN the education field to step up and make changes in their buildings and their districts. Otherwise, changes will be forced upon us by the high and might people like Gates and Duncan. I certainly don’t want this? Do you? I encourage you to step up to the plate in your district and be part of the positive change that can happen when teachers take on this responsibility.