Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tail Wagging Dogs In US Education System

In most professions, innovation comes from practitioners.  Medical science develops in treatment.  Legal theories are developed in Appellate Courts.  Architectural design advances with every new sketch.

There is one profession for which this maxim does not apply: Teaching.

This editorial ("A very scary headline about kindergarteners") is one comment among many that disturbs me.  Reports about other countries "getting ahead" of the United States in "Global Rankings" of our 15 year olds have worked our policy-makers into a tizzy, causing them to creep more and more into our classrooms and impose ever-increasing metrics on what our children learn.

It is all based on the general premise that:

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”
― H. James Harrington

I don't necessarily disagree with that premise.  My concern My deepest darkest very real concern relates to who is responsible for managing "improvement".  Montgomery County has implemented a strong program for Peer Assistance and Review that not only helps teachers improve, but also provides a mechanism for helping those who are ineffective move on to other careers (i.e., it gets rid of bad teachers).  Yet, this program, developed by practitioners - innovation out of practice - is being overridden by policy-makers.  People who have never taught and wouldn't know the first thing about teaching.

Not only is this bad leadership, but it is also bad practice.  What would happen if our medical laboratories were guided by policy instead of treatment?  Can we expect innovation?  Or are they just going to tow the line?

I learned the most from teachers who enjoyed teaching.
I learned the most from teachers who were allowed to be creative.
I learned the most from teachers who innovated new methods through practice.

This is a serious issue and it will continue to rear its head in the form of lost teachers, low morale, and even, gasp, decreasing test scores.  The worst part is - it doesn't have to be this way.

That's all for today.  Have a great snow day doing what you love!