Sunday, February 25, 2007

If we unleashed this power, imagine the impact it would have on public education

Discussions about choice in public education generally focus the demand side. That is, choice provides parents in failing schools better options for their children.

The real power of school choice though is on the supply side. If we unleashed the power of teachers to be creative, imagine the impact it would have on public education. Imagine if like educator Cynde O'Rear all teachers could say:
I became the one who made classroom decisions concerning my students. I didn't have to be on the same page, using the same techniques, same books or same lessons as all the other teachers. I could be creative and spontaneous, depending on the students' interests.

In this way, I was allowed to try new approaches, to branch out and tackle more difficult and challenging teaching skills. I was allowed the freedom to grow, the room to make mistakes, to modify and adjust without hovering administrators evaluating me. In turn, this encouraged my students as well to take risks, to try new things and to accept a challenge.

If I needed help with an errant student, my principal sat down and discussed with me ways to "coach" that child, and that is a term that I have come to embrace with great affection.

My planning period was protected because my administration believed firmly that this is the most important time of my school day. Being prepared is, first and foremost, the prime building block to an effective educator.

But, mostly, my administration said to me: You are competent.

That statement empowers like no other.
Imagine how, if all teachers felt this way, education would be transformed.

1 comment:

Parentalcation said...

Our school system is a result of creativity.

Creativity is great at releasing innovation, but to capitalize on it you need to make data driven decisions. (most ideas are not good ideas)

This is the problem with public education. Education policy makers have a history of ignoring scientific research. Witness the constant battle against phonics, despite overwhelming evidence that whole language doesn't work.

In the 1970's the government sponsored the largest experiment in education ever conducted. It was called Project Follow Through.

It showed unequivocally that progressive models of education reform (K-3) do not work. It did show that one teaching program called "Direct Instruction" trounced all other education models.

High Schools are unable to teach innovation because their students arrive woefully unprepared with basic skills.

Trying to encourage innovation without addressing basic background knowledge is an exercise in futility.

If I may quote D-EdReckoning

"The bitterness still exists to this day. The DI program is so hated by educators they have erased it from their collective memory banks. It is a painful reminder of their professional incompetence. It dispels all their unscientific "theories" and unfounded opinions. It shows that they are a sham.

For educators, Project Follow Through was a total loss. They lost in every academic subject tested. They lost in teaching basic skills, which was expected. But they also lost in teaching higher order skills and in fostering student self esteem, which was unexpected. They lost in teaching low performers. But they also lost teaching high performers! They lost teaching everybody everything. It was a humiliating defeat.

And, they didn't just lose by a little bit. They lost by a lot and by a lot I mean an obscene amount. For most measures, the DI program beat the control group by an effect size of a standard deviation (This means a student performing at the 20th percentile would be performing at the 50th percentile after the DI intervention). Many of the educator's programs, in fact, underperformed the control group. Ouch!"

No successful business would impliment a new idea without validating its approach, and if an idea is proven to be the most effective (profitable) it would be implimented without prejudice. Why should education be any different.