Improving America’s Schools – Letter #2, Part 2 (Innovation)

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The following post is based on thoughts related to:

Letters to the Editor that the NY Times has recently received concerning public schools. The link is: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/17/opinion/l17educ.html?emc=eta1

Joanne Yatvin writes, “…if innovation is desirable, all schools should be allowed to innovate, not just charter schools. Why not free public schools from the straitjackets of state textbooks, externally written curriculums and one-size-fits-all instruction?”

I believe that when it comes to innovation, individual campuses can be just as innovative as any charter. And in fact, a number of the constraints that charters don’t have actually makes their job more difficult. For example, not having to hire certified staff and not having maximum class size limits is not a benefit. What charters are good at is trying new things. Regular schools can and do that often. And if I get to pick, I’m going to innovate with a better quality staff.

As for the issue of state textbooks, externally developed curriculum and one size fits all instruction, let me respond to each one separately. First textbooks, this really shouldn’t be an issue. The textbook should be just one of many resources used in a classroom. If the textbook is the only classroom resource that is used, that’s a lazy decision, not a mandated one.

Second, using an externally developed curriculum, again this is not an issue. Teachers need to be provided a common scope and sequence. This creates two powerful benefits. The first is that once teacher don’t have to decide what to teach and when to teach it, they can spend the majority of their time and attention improving the delivery of instruction. And the delivery is where the rubber meets the road in instruction. The second benefit is that the use of a common scope and sequence is the foundation for developing objective instructional data.

The final issue of one size, fits all instruction, is again not an issue. One size fits all instruction is a result of poor support, poor data and poor leadership. With the right tools and leadership focus, any classroom can become more individualized. And again, I would rather attempt this with certified professionals than without.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…

Improving America’s Schools – Letter #2, Part 1 (Rewarding Success)
Improving America’s Schools – Letter 2, Part 3 (Achievement and Rigor)

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