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Revolutionizing Education

Chapter 5 & 6: What constructivist actions have states and countries taken to revolutionize education systems? Are there any choices you can apply tomorrow? I believe that one of the biggest actions that have improved educational systems worldwide is providing conditions for strong teaching. Raising the standards for teacher education and certification is probably the biggest! Allowing teachers to go through weeks long training does not prepare them for effective teaching in the classroom. Universities have changed their teacher credentialing programs to include raised standards for teaching, including a changed emphasis from teaching skills to teaching critical thinking and inquiry, and requiring performance assessments and portfolios to reflect teacher growth and development. Many district and countries have raised the professional bar for teachers by increasing salaries, dramatically improving working conditions by including teachers in decision making, assessment development, instructional and curriculum decisions, and professional development. It is unfortunate that our district has such limited funds and PD has been sporadic at best. We have not had a singular focused PD with enough hours to make a difference. Districts that provide new teacher mentoring and coaching have been successful in training and retaining their beginning teachers. In fact, in other countries, new teachers are released from actual teaching for most of the week to observe mentor teachers, be observed, plan together, design units with a master teacher and reflect on their lessons. Wow! Imagine all new teachers in our state having that opportunity! I am especially impressed with the programs in Finland and Singapore. They have high standards for ALL teachers and students. They have prioritized education! They have worked to equalize the system and offer equitable education and training for students and teachers in the whole country. The level of training that their teachers go through is impressive. The fact that it is subsidized is equally impressive. Teachers are highly regarded, respected and paid well! In Korea, the average time a teacher actually teaches students is about 35% of the week. The rest of the time they are working with other teachers, planning and improving lessons, grading, meeting with families, etc. We have 45 minutes at the most each week! Our district has committed to 45 minutes of PLC time on Wednesdays through early release of students. Right now, one of the biggest impacts we could have is to properly train teachers to use that time for assessing student work and

student data, reflecting and focusing on next steps for lesson improvement and reteaching. Teachers should be sharing teaching strategies and expertise instead of meeting to meet, which I have seen too often. We could also, as a district, choose a singular focus for PD and stick to it with enough hours of training to make a difference. Chapter 7: Of the solutions presented for developing teachers/principals in this chapter, which do you see as obstacles to teacher change in your situation. How might you design a solution around them? One obstacle in our school district is having the resources to fund teacher development. With our current budget situation in the sate, we have had to make dramatic cuts, and teacher PD is one thing that has been cut. In order for all teachers to have access to good teaching strategies/practices and ideas, there must be a plan to deliver it. With a limited PD budget, the district will have to be very creative in its delivery. The only time it wouldn’t cost the district to do the PD would be on the early release Wednesdays, which would then take away from collaborative time for teachers…..which is equally as important! There will be big change implemented soon with the Common Core roll out. I am not sure how the district will accomplish this training. It might have to happen at school sites as part of staff meetings. We could dedicate one two hour block of extended staff meeting time each month to this new training. Teachers can be asked to stay until 4 two times per month for staff meetings as part of their contract. I have to say that, in my opinion, the biggest obstacle to teacher development is that teachers at my site, as well as others, do not feel like they want or need to be developed. I am working with a very veteran teaching staff who has seen the pendulum swing too many times to believe that there is a strong need for change that will actually last! They are not invested in the current trends to move toward inquiry, critical thinking, performance assessments, etc., even though that has been the message and direction of our school for 2 ½ years! They are doing it because we have asked them to…..not because they see the need. Although they are starting to see the importance! I think the solution to this is to have them do some research of their own (instead of the message coming form the top) to see where we are all headed! We could strategically choose articles to read at PLC time or staff meetings and have teachers reflect on the articles as well as their own practice to see where change could begin. I have had teachers choose just one strategy/critical thinking skill that they would implement in their classrooms and monitor its effectiveness. Making it personal and giving choice seem to be positive ways to begin implementation. One solution presented for teacher development was to allow for teachers to observe each other teach and see excellent practices modeled. Many teachers are not comfortable being observed as this is not currently common practice at most schools. We would need to create a culture where teachers respect this process and find it necessary, to believe it is something we all do as part of our

own learning and reflecting. We could start by letting those who are comfortable with being observed go ahead and let others watch their good teaching. The cost would be minimal if we got a roving sub once per month to allow teachers to observe and be observed as part of our routine school business. Principals or coaches could also cover classes to make this a no cost practice. Sometimes just seeing high quality teaching is enough impetus to spark change and inspiration in other teachers!

Chapter 8: What have been your experiences with the reform measures described in this chapter? Which would you like to see implemented at your site? I am excited to note that our school is already on the path to implementing many of the reform measures in this chapter. As a magnet school, we have had to define our school in a way that is different from the rest of the district. Although we are doing things that the district is also doing, we are a bit ahead of the game with whole school implementation of PBL, critical thinking, inquiry focus, performance assessments, as well as Common Core practices. Teachers are just beginning to implement these practices at our school by taking baby steps, but we are on the right path! Our entire school staff (except 1 new teacher who will be trained this summer) has been trained in Project Based Learning and we are all writing and teaching PBL units. We have focused on the inquiry process and we are implementing the Common Core math practices, which focus on critical thinking, modeling with math, reflective practices, explaining thinking, problem solving and more! We use a cooperative learning strategy called Power Teaching Math, which focuses on cooperative learning, peer tutoring, explaining your reasoning, and an ”everyone learns” expectation. Students are going deeper in their learning and thinking with both PBL and Power Teaching instead of just learning rote skills. It is amazing to see how students are engaged, sharing their ideas and thinking strategies, and connecting their learning after just a short time with this type of strategy. Our school has also begun to embrace quality PLC practices. We sent a small group of teachers to a PLC institute last October and another team will go in July. With this high quality PLC training, teachers finally understand how to use their PLC time to focus on teaching and learning that will make a difference for student achievement. Teachers are choosing essential standards that all kids will master. We are now more focused developing common formative assessments, looking at student work and data, sharing teaching strategies, and making plans for reteaching, intervention and enrichment that will support all students in the grade level. We have also restructured our intervention time to use an “all hands on deck” model where instructional assistants and reading support people work together to support a grade level at the same time, reducing the number of students in each of the groups for a more personal and focused intervention/ enrichment time. These are changes that we have implemented just this year and I am excited to see if the changes have made a positive impact.

One area for reform that I would like to see at our school would be a quality before/after after school intervention program to more fully support struggling students. We need to develop a quality program to address these needs. Using technology and strategic, differentiated programs will be a benefit. This is a next step!