Tuesday, March 31, 2015

If I was King for the Day

If I were King for the day, the first thing I would do is solve more than 1 or 2 problems.  Seriously I’m shocked my other blogger buddies didn’t think of this first!  Didn’t you learn anything when you were a child and you were given 3 wishes?  Wasn’t the first thing everyone wished for was unlimited wishes”? 

The intent of this question was simple: To demonstrate that educators have some great ideas on how to improve public education.  Education reformers do not have a monopoly on the desire to improve public schools.  If we want to improve education we have to tackle both sides of the education coin:  instruction and attainment.  Maximizing one without improving the other is just a recipe for failure.  Here is my list without any thought to priority:

·       Society has to get better to minimize outside factors which hinder student learning.  Yes, outside factors hinder student learning.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us student learning is affected by hunger, fear, acceptance, being loved at home, and a multitude of other physical and psychological factors.  Don’t believe in Maslow’s?  Try teaching a group of kids a new math lesson the last 15 minutes before lunch.  Even the teacher wants to time warp to lunch!  Hunger is bad enough when you get 3 square meals a day, but how about the student on Monday whose last meal was what the cafeteria served on Friday?  Add in kids who are abused, scared, bullied, or neglected and you have a bunch of students who care less about the lesson and more about survival.  If you want to improve student learning, Oklahoma must invest in social services to provide for the children whose parents won’t provide for them!

·       Every classroom should have a highly effective teacher.  Notice I didn’t say highly qualified teacher.  There is a world of difference between effectiveness and qualified.  Let’s face it, some members of our profession should be doing something else.  Some members of other professions should be teachers.  If I was King, I’d create a compensation package ensuring the profession of “EDUCATOR” is competitive with other college degreed professionals.  I’m not saying Teachers should be paid like Doctors, but we should be paid better than convenience store managers, truck drivers, burrito makers (see Supt. Hofmeister’s #OKhigh5 plan), and 2014 HS graduates who work in the oil field.

·       Under my rule, Oklahoma would test less and teach more.  Standardized testing isn’t the answer to measuring instructional practices.  In theory, standardized testing should measure student attainment.  However, it cannot measure the impact on student learning.  The depth of understanding, the magnitude of human impact, the creativity of the mind, nor the breadth of critical thinking can be measured by a standardized test.  Let’s face it, the instant you create an assessment is the instant when you limit the scope of learning.

·       Make teaching a 240 day job.  Before everyone goes crazy and claim I’ve lost my mind, let me explain.  I’d require students to come to school 200 days per year.  The other 40 days would be professional development days in which teachers worked at becoming better: by analyzing student data and collaborating with their peers.

Can you imagine a world where beginning teacher pay is $40,000 plus benefits and 25 year veteran teachers make $75,000?  Where beginning teachers are given a highly effective mentor teacher for the year and they work 40 additional days at becoming better for their students?  Can you imagine what our students could accomplish if they came to school ready to learn and was always taught by an effective teacher?  Can you imagine what students could do if lessons were relevant to them and lessons could be created independent of some worthless standardized test?  If I were King for the day, this is what school would look like.

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