Thursday, April 19, 2012

Does the current system reflect our true values?

Values reflect our fundamental beliefs.

What are the fundamental beliefs of teachers, educators, principals, or Superintendents?

In my cynical moments, if I had to judge what our values are based on the educational system that we currently have, I could make a case that we value teacher isolation, sorting students into winners and losers, punishing those who fall short, and chasing grades instead of real learning.

As I said, that may sound very cynical. But, at times, a case could be made that those are our values. Look at the system we have. Teachers rarely get an opportunity to work together. Most of the day teachers work in isolation. We sort students whether it is through grading or cut scores on standardized tests. The new teacher evaluation system for teachers places a premium on student performance.

If our values focused on teamwork, success for all students, finding solutions, sharing good ideas then our school systems would be different. We would create opportunities for teachers to talk, to share ideas, to watch each other teach. We would have a system that would allow teachers and administrators time to talk with each other about what worked and what didn't work in our classrooms and schools. If these were our values we would find ways to identify those students who struggle early on so that we could get them help more quickly. If these were our values parents and teachers would focus on removing barriers to learning and work together to help students. If these were our values then that would lead us to work together to ensure that every student was successful all of time.  We would look at achievement data and ask hard questions about why certain students are performing well and other students are not performing well. We would not see the data as a condemnation of what we are doing but as an opportunity to help us understand where we need to change and how we can get better.

The values that we have would drive us to find solutions, to get the system working so that students would be successful.

I am encouraged that in our district we are trying to create a system that reflects values that I believe in. We are trying to give teachers and administrators time to talk. We are creating opportunities for teachers to observe one another and to honestly dialogue about what works in classrooms and what does not work in classrooms. I have hope that we are creating an evaluation system that will focus on improvement and give teachers opportunities to reflect on their professional practice. I believe that we are trying to build bridges between teachers and parents that allow us to focus on student success.

Some days I focus on what our system lacks. Other days I focus on what we are building.

My goal is to build a system that reflects our values.

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