In response to the post, “First, Fix the Obvious,” a reader writes.
“I have seen the following at the host of highly dysfunctional secondary schools that I have turned around:
1. One fourth of the school missing class to help with Special Olympics, in the days preceding TAKS. This was tough to address because I am a big proponent of Special Olympics.
2. Benchmark tests that attempt (without success) to simulate TAKS.
3. Continuous pull outs of teachers to give them professional development with NO monitoring to verify they implement the training.
4. Bad weather surplus days and local holidays scheduled immediately preceding TAKS.
In all too many schools there is NO sense of urgency. As Cain says, the people yawn and play their fiddles as Rome burns.”
First, I would love to give credit to whomever I stole this idea from, but at this point I no longer remember. I visited a campus in the late 1990’s that awarded varsity jackets to their high school Special Olympians. As soon as I got back to my district, we began doing the same thing. That act may be in the top three things that I have ever done for my student body. Whatever the cost, make it happen. That being said, if you aren’t cutting it academically, you don’t need to be pulled out of the classroom for any reason (the volunteer, not the athlete).
Second, in general, benchmarks are a waste of time. The frequent, short-term common assessment that is aligned to a valid scope and sequence is the tool that teachers need to make informed adjustments to their delivery. Hit your short-term targets and the big picture takes care of itself.
Third, as you allude to, training isn’t the issue. Ineffective training delivery and non-existent implementation is the problem. And teachers can’t fix this. Training delivery is the responsibility of the trainers and implementation is the responsibility of leadership. When we blame teachers after we train them ineffectively and withhold timely support, how are we any different than the teacher who blames his students for not learning after he has presented the content?
Fourth, again, we build schedules based on adult convenience and tradition instead of effective practice. I visited a campus this year that held open house during the same week as TAKS. Not because it was postponed from an earlier date, but because that was the way they had always done it. When I suggested that they stop, they looked at me like I suggested that they quit breathing. And again, not a teacher issue, a leadership issue.
Finally, I believe that the lack of urgency is because too many of us don’t believe that we can make a difference. If you can’t make a difference, why try? Anyone of us in the system can make a difference greater than our position. If I didn’t believe that with all of my heart, I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.
Think. Work. Achieve.