Thursday, July 05, 2007

Stark Reality

Ok, time for the glass half empty or half full talk! This post by Scott McLeod gives some thoughts on time wasting activities by teachers that are concerned that we don't have enough time to be data-driven. Then, there's this article at Education Week that shows how most classrooms don't apply many of the tested and true strategies that make teaching effective.

My thoughts on these tend to follow the glass half full mentality. We have been working on a schoolwide literacy assessment plan that will give us a huge push forward in our grade level and cross grade level discussions next year. Simultaneously, we'll be spending much more time in staff development, observations, coaching, and feedback with teachers focused on the elements of good teaching such as a clear purpose and good modeling. I think we are poised to see consistent improvement in every classroom. I believe we have built up a strong professional culture at this time in our school to overcome some of the typical inertia in school staffs that completely resist changes to daily instruction.
An ever-growing contingent of researchers is beginning to concede that instruction itself probably has more impact on learning, and on achievement gaps, than any other factor. So the key to better schools is not commissions or new commercial curriculum materials, or even professional development. Each of these lacks the most basic, critical ingredient: a willingness to establish clear expectations for instruction, to arrange for teachers to work in teams so they can meet and exceed those expectations, and to institute simple routines for honestly and continuously monitoring teaching to ensure its effectiveness.

We are on our way to make this happen at Halecrest.


Junie B. said...

This comment will come as no surprise...there is ALWAYS time to be data-driven. Knowing the strengths/weaknesses of each individual student is our greatest responsibility. We are able to plan appropriate activities/lessons with this information. I appreciated Scott McLeod's comment that the intelligent use of progress monitoring yields significant impacts on student learning. I am hopeful that next year there will be constant conversation during collaboration about the progress students are making towards state standards. The analysis of the data we collect is what will impact our students. If we only administer the assessments and don't spend time in conversation about the results we will not see students improve. When are we going to take a look at homework assignments? McLeod has that on his list of time wasting activities.

danw said...

Junie B,

I can't wait for next year to get started. I think we are in a great place to make significant improvement in our instruction across all grade levels because of our assessment calendar and the increased expectations around the literacy block. The conversations will take place frequently at grade level collaborations. We will structure those conversations carefully so that we can match student results with particular instructional strategies.

Homework has been on the back of my mind for about two years. I think it's time we come up with a site policy about homework. That should be a fun staff meeting. I better bring some strong chocolate for that one.