Have We Become Too Cynical About Public Education Reform?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Jackstreet, Feb 10, 2011.

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Have We Become Too Cynical About Public Education Reform?

  1. Yes

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  2. No

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  1. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 12, 2011

    I'd like to know why teachers don't have to keep current (and well ahead of their students) on subject matter, too.
     
  2. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 12, 2011

    I agree that teachers should have to stay current. It's expensive to join many professional organizations and I haven't found one that covers all areas of teaching.

    My school does something nice with subscribing to different teaching organizations and then copying the table of contents for the teachers. Then we can check out the magazine or ask for a copy and our media specialist takes care of this for us.
     
  3. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    Feb 12, 2011

    I'm surprised that anyone thinks that teachers don't have to stay current. Maybe I am missing what you mean by 'current' but I was pulled out of class multiple times every week so that the district could give us binders, presentations, meetings, websites, policies, and other mandates about what we must do because of the magical new research (which would change every month or year). And that wasn't technically PD, it was just what you had to do, period.

    You definitely have to stay current on the ever-changing issues, the problem for me is that there is no consistency between the leaders and the research is not a one size fits all.

    "Research shows every teacher should use a behavioral chart in her class so thus you must do it or else, you will be written up." (Happened to me---though I could also quote research (I'm beginning to hate that word) that shows reasons why you don't have to use a behavioral chart)

    Now that's been my issue with teaching, you must do as you are told, no questions asked even though many pieces of "research" out there can and will have exceptions.

    Unlike the medical field and accounting, etc, there is no one right way to teach. You can use different approaches (some of which may be traditional) and still come up with successful results.

    With medicine, you certainly can't continue using old equipment and old medications and old techniques that have been outlawed.

    With teaching, it is supposed to be an Art and Science where you should be talented enough to mix the old with the new. I can think back to techniques my wonderful teachers used 20 years ago and they are still successful with this new generation of students. However, I can also balance that with the new methods that I believe in such as, more hands-on learning, and explaining the why's, and not having students simply memorize information like we did back then.

    I sadly have a hard time considering teaching to be a true profession because I've yet to be able to use my professional judgement or training in regards to making decisions for my students. Secondly, unlike doctors, if my student doesn't perform well in any area known to man, I will be 100% blamed and branded ineffective. With doctors and lawyers, if they lose a patient or lose a case, people respect them enough to examine the intricate details of the patient and the particular case.

    Teaching should be a profession & I used to think it was, but in my experience, it is not the definition of what I consider a profession.
     
  4. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Feb 12, 2011

    I think the argument is that most research is not current when it is presented (in other words, it is old news by the time it is presented). This likely varies depending on schools and school districts. I also don't think that anyone here is arguing that certain practices and methods should be forced on any person. There is important research out there that we have to pay attention to. How the brain learns, for example.

    I must question why you call the research "unsound", however. I think it would depend on how many times that specific are has been studied, and if the results were duplicated each time, and if not, why not? Certainly, every study has its limitations, but you would have to know the specifics of all that research to be able to make an accurate statement as to whether or not it is or is not sound. So, I am curious to know why you think this way.

    As far as whether or not teaching is a true profession, that is an on going debate, and there are many others who, like you, do not consider teaching a profession.
     
  5. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Feb 12, 2011

    Webmistress, I agree completely that teaching is an art and a science. I am in a unique (sounds like) position where I am expected to use my professional judgment. I'm at a "choice school," and have been able to ditch our district's math program because I can honestly say I've tried it and it does not work in my classroom. It doesn't work for my students, what I am doing is working for them, therefore this is what I am going to continue to do. My P is 100% behind me. On the other hand, teachers in my school who cannot justify what they are doing (or not doing, in the case of the math package) look very unprofessional. "I've been teaching 25 years and I know what works and what doesn't," sounds unprofessional.

    Having research handed to you with a mandate is not appropriate for a professional. Where is the professional judgment in that? The Reform Movement seems determined to hand down mandates, though, because teachers are not viewed as practitioners, but as skilled workers. Like a construction worker can be told how to do her job, so can a teacher. Construction workers would not research the industry looking for the latest building codes. They would be told how to build.
     
  6. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Feb 12, 2011

    I am really lucky too as I have flexibility on what I teach. At my school, we are respected professionals who can make the important choices when it comes to educating our students. I feel really bad for the many teachers who find themselves in schools that dictate to, rather than respect their teacher's professional abilities.
     
  7. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Oh, and the behavior chart strikes a nerve for me. Behavior charts do work in some circumstances for all kids, and for all circumstances for some kids. Knowing what the research shows regarding behavior charts lets a teacher decide how and when to use one. That would be using your professional judgment. My district does not have a mandated policy regarding behavior charts. My philosophy starts with encouraging intrinsic control whenever possible, and therefore I don't automatically use external controls like behavior charts. However, I know that I could if I needed to, for the kids who need it, when they need it. Because I know the thinking behind using them.

    I'd be mad if someone handed me one side of the debate (backed by research, as always) and told me that was that.

    Going to "Learning and the Brain" conferences, on the other hand, and then being asked to explain what I learned and how I plan to apply it - that's the kind of keeping updated on research I am talking about.
     
  8. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    Feb 12, 2011

    If it's old news by the time it's presented then why are we required to follow it? That seems like a leadership problem to me. When my P and I had the debate about behavioral charts, she was mentioning 'research' and I was not only mentioning what I read that countered her view point, but I mentioned that of my own practices, my professors, my cooperating teacher, and articles that supported my professional opinion.

    I had real life examples to back me up, not just "research." Maybe she was out of date, but it doesn't matter because she was the principal so I had to do as I was told.

    I do agree, many of the district meetings are things I am already doing, are things that any 1st year ed student should know. The exception is the new curriculum programs usually based on somebody's research.

    I edited my post from 'unsound', that's too strong word for what I am trying to say, but having trouble saying it because I am sick and all over the place right now.

    My issue with a lot of research is the sample size, the demographics/participants, and yes the leaders should definitely examine the methodologies more extensively before they take a research finding and expect it to cure all problems in education.

    There's qualitative vs quantitative, case studies, and so much to consider, and it seems these factors are never considered when telling me how to do my job. In other words, we should consider real life experiences along with the research.

    Even in a rigid right or wrong field such as medicine, when researchers come up with something new (based on what it is of course), the doctor is still allowed to use his professional judgement to make exceptions to that research based on what he knows is best for his patient at the time.

    Some research shows anti-depressants are harmful to unborn babies, but doctors are still given the power and professional respect to examine each case individually and each type of medication etc My doctors have gone against the research on many occasions.

    I'm rambling and all over the place so I just need to go to bed...
     
  9. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    Feb 12, 2011

    TeacherShelly I'm glad you can see where I was coming from. Im sure I used some words that don't make sense, so let me go to bed, I'm kinda sick and am not typing to my best right now.
     
  10. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Feb 12, 2011

    Here is a good article explaining why the "corporate model" doesn't work for school - at least not within the school and classroom itself.

    What Does a Business Do With Inferior Blueberries?

    There are also some very good comments after the article explaining a different implementation of the "corporate model" within a district rather than an individual school.
     
  11. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Feb 12, 2011

    I am sorry you are not feeling well. I completely see your frustration with being told to change what you are doing, and not being given the choice to make that important decision on your own. I think this is one of the biggest problems most teachers are experiencing. It takes away from our professionalism. Thank you for clarifying your concerns on the research. I wasn't sure if you were focusing on one specific study, or just in general. Your concerns there are warranted as well. We must critically look at research and see where, and how it was conducted, and whether or not there are conflicting results in different studies. I agree.

    As far as research being presented in PDs, I think what several of us have experienced is by the time we are presented with research, it's not really new anymore, or we've heard it before. I went to a PD a few months ago and most of it was pushing the new edition of our curriculum onto us. Only a short part of it was on brain research (and, it was all research I had already read), so I felt like really, the whole thing was a waste of my Saturday.
     
  12. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    Feb 12, 2011

    ^^I completely understand what you're saying Tami.
     
  13. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Feb 13, 2011

    While our provincial curriculum mandates what we need to teach, we have complete professional freedom in how. We have resources, like textbooks, available, and have free choice as to how we use them (or not). Telling teachers which resource to use, what to say, what page you must be on, what behaviour plan to use, what must be displayed in your classroom takes all power away from and minimizes their importance.
     
  14. CanukTeach

    CanukTeach Companion

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    Feb 13, 2011

    Hi Mrs C, I sort of agree with you and sort of don't. We do have freedom in how we teach it but we are expected to use current practices (i.e. the new document on the way out - forget its name right now - mandates DI, Tiering and UDL).

    To me the problem with teachers saying "I don't want to be told what to" do is that some people do things that are just way out of date. So yes teachers should have some flexibility but they need to be using best practices. When teachers don't choose to research best practices and use them then they get mandated more directly from admin. For example, one teacher in my school did a horrible job in a particular course last semester. It was so bad the admin has to bring in research to discuss it with him because he was basically giving students a text and questions and requiring them to be independent 90% of the time. Then he'd say research is so subjective. Well not really. By any measure the way you handled this class was awful so Ministry supported approached (DI, tiering, etc) are definately an improvement!
     
  15. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    True...I was thinking more of mandated "curriculums" for math, reading or writing that must be followed to the letter.
     
  16. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Feb 13, 2011

    I'm fortunate to work in a district like yours, Ms C...we are professionals and are treated as such.
     
  17. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 13, 2011

    And I'm in a opposite district. We are given a textbook to follow and a pacing guide. We are also given all of our end of week or chapter tests (some clearly missing content that was taught).

    Now, my administration doesn't actually come into my room and look at how I am teaching lessons as they do to some teachers, so I have a little more freedom...but not much.
     
  18. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Feb 13, 2011

    I'm somewhere in between. We have text and we have pacing guides, but we design both as a team (I'm currently redoing the Canterbury Tales unit after seeing where it needs improvement). We redid a lot of our curriculum after sitting at a table with our state standards written on index cards. We'll revisit it again this spring, I'm sure. Our reforms aren't huge, but they're constant.
     
  19. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    We have to teach the common core standards. They are very streamlined, especially compared to the old state standards. How we teach it, that's up to us. Except math - that has to be Everyday Math, unless you are in a special school and can justify your choice not to (like me).
     
  20. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Feb 13, 2011

    At my school, we have a set curriculum and a pacing guide that we work on collaboratively, but we are not forced to follow that. Here's my conflict: I think it is so important for teachers to be up-to-date on current research, and know best practices, and why they are best practices, but I believe teachers need to be the professionals who know best how to implement those things in their class. But, what do we do about teachers who are basing what they do on years of experience (and experience speaks volumes, I am not discounting it), and refuse to look at new research? Herein lies a big issue, and I am not sure I have a possible solution. How can teachers be held accountable for using research without being forced to do any one specific thing? And, to clarify, I am really posing this question out of interest because I feel it is so important that as professionals we make those important decisions. Once we have been dictated to, forget it. We are no longer the professionals who know best, but a bunch of robots who must perform a certain way. So, how do we approach this? Ideas?
     
  21. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Feb 13, 2011

    My approach to research is this:

    I like to read periodicals published by ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). Sometimes, the articles will just be studies about how students who had a certain type of instruction perform better at a certain task than students who are taught with ANOTHER method. So I might think, "Hm. I might employ a little more of method A in my classroom and see how it goes. If it doesn't work, I'll go back to what I was doing." Nobody ordered me to do it--there's just a correlation there that is substantial enough to be noted. Not all classes are identical, so I like to try new things out in a subtle way and see if those methods are effective in my class or not.

    It doesn't mean I have to totally change my approach to teaching. It just means I incorporate something new into a lesson every once in a while. If teachers are unwilling to at least consider new research and do a trial run of something new, I think they are a little short-sighted and are holding themselves back from being even more effective teachers.
     
  22. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Feb 13, 2011

    Well, I think it's great that you try new things in your class. One would think all teachers are eager to do so, but I see so many (and I mean at my school) who are stuck doing what they are comfortable with.
     
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