Standardization v. Teacher Freedom

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Brendan, Mar 21, 2011.

  1. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Mar 21, 2011

    I met with my new staff recently and they are great. I've never seen more hardworking, educators who want whats best for the kids. They seem willing to experiment to do what's best for the kids. Luckily, the school will be well funded to accommodate their urges (we'll have technology, a variety of texts, and other resources).

    One of the biggest things which I struggle with as an Administrator is the concept of standardization and teacher freedom, particularly in terms of pacing, teaching, methods, and evaluation.

    Any thoughts? I am trying to think of a compromise now. I don't think I'll mandate any teaching methods (use of technology or anything like that) yet. I want to treat my teachers as professionals and hope that they use the PD we provide to their student's advantage. I think a common syllabus for CORE classes is the way to go, as are common evaluation systems within each course. As for standardized testing, I'm not sure. I am not a fan of every student taking identical tests and quizzes for each units. However, a few well developed essays, projects, and term exams could provide helpful.
     
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  3. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Mar 22, 2011

    That's very cool Brendan that you are so open to the instructional decision-making of your faculty! I can't imagine how happy your staff are to have you there.

    I have two general thoughts - one about pacing/teaching/methods, and another about evaluation. Fair warning - I'm a pretty data-driven person. I like numbers, and I like goals/objectives/measurement! In administrative positions I've had before, I've preferred to set very high expectations, but to give a lot of freedom in how to get there. So, if you aren't a numbers person, forgive me!

    First, I agree with your approach to provide a variety of tools and training, and allow your teachers to find the best paths to success. I do think that having "standardized options" available is a good thing because some teachers want more guidance and direction (closer to a script), while some want total creativity and freedom (far from a standardized approach). I would establish the expectations you have in terms of performance, and allow your teachers to make professional decisions about how to get there. They chose the path, you chose the destination. I would also expect that each teacher could justify - using research, theory, and past experience - why they are selecting the particular instructional methods. Whether you expect lesson plans, a general philosophy of instruction, or something in between, I would expect teachers to be able to articulate why they are choosing their specific route.

    In terms of evaluation, clearly each department would be different, but I would want some sort of common assessment system in each department that I could use for building-level analysis, cross-classroom comparison, and student comparison. If each teacher has a separate evaluation system, you lose specificity in terms of how a child is performing in a particular area, and the reliability and accuracy of the assessment system tends to suffer. It may be helpful to lay out this expectation, and let the teachers work with you on selecting or designing assessment(s) that would fit the bill. Personally, I would want something that could be administered frequently, measured core/big concepts/skills, wasn't too time consuming, and is easy/quick to administer. I would also want to be able to repeat the assessment (perhaps quarterly) to assess progress.

    Overall, I guess I like setting high and certain expectations for teachers, giving extensive resources and support, and allowing substantial creativity and professional freedom to choose the most appropriate instructional method for their students. With assessment, I would expect teachers to have an internal (within classroom) system of assessment that they used to routinely (e.g., weekly) assess progress and modify instructional approach, but would have a department-wide assessment administered preferably quarterly, with more frequent assessments for kids demonstrating difficulty. This assessment could be selected/designed by the department, but ultimately approved by you if it met your criteria.

    So, are you new to that school, or just have new staff? You mentioned having met your new staff? Good luck!
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Mar 22, 2011

    I think a good part of it is having the right people as chairmen. If they're in place, they can keep an eye on the assesssments to ensure that the expectations are being met. As you're dealing with a relatively small staff, those chairmen should be invaluable, especially in the early years.

    I HATE the idea of everyone giving the same tests. By the time the last class takes the test, they inevitably know exactly what's on it. And staying on someone else's timeline means I can't teach my kids where they ARE. You know that freshman geometry class I have, the one that's stuck on the degree thing? If they had to take the same test Denise is giving her classes, I'm not sure I could have spent a class and a half on that one little idea. I would hate to be afraid to call in when one of my kids was sick, because my kids were taking a test they weren't prepared for, because it wasn't my test.

    I'm very much in favor of departmental exams a couple of times a year, but would hate to have to run every test and quiz by the other members of my department. So the pacing is kind of taken care of; we all know we have to be at the end of chapter X by next month's second trimester exam. But I tend to teach quickly then review at the end, and other tend to go more slowly and offer less review. Each of us is able to be comfortable with our own style, yet all the kids are taught the same material.
     
  5. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    Mar 22, 2011

    I like everything you said here Alice.

    Unfortunately our district does not have department chairs (budget cuts saw them go away and I fear we will never get them back). Luckily our departments are small enough that usually only 1 or 2 teachers is teaching the same subject. At least in our department we communicate often so we know where each of us is at in the curriculum standard-wise. We don't have common assessments yet (although the district is moving us toward them). We do share tests, but don't have to use each other's, although we end up having some common questions.
     
  6. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Mar 22, 2011

    With pacing, if you set a common syllabus, which is a good idea in secondary education, then you have given teachers a pacing guide without overwhelming them. Then if you have common evaluations at least once a quarter, you would make sure that the teachers are following the syllabus and keeping up with the pacing.

    Teaching/Methods-I would give teachers some freedom, but expect to observe. If you notice something that seems a little strange or something that seems great, ask the teacher for some feedback on why they choose the methods that they did. Give them a little time to get back to you though.

    I would suggest sitting down with the staff and determining these ideas. Maybe have each department create a common syllabus. Once they have this, they can work on creating the common evaluations. This may take a year or longer, but having the staff create it would satisfy all parties, I think.
     
  7. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    Mar 22, 2011

    Yes, once a quarter is good for common assessments. I wouldn't want to have standardized weekly quizzes or homework assignments.

    Who is going to write these standardized assessments? If the teachers are writing them, make sure you give them enough time to write good tests. We are given maybe an hour of dedicated time to write each one at my school, and there are always mistakes in the questions. We just don't have enough time to draft a test, refine the questions, make sure we have enough covering each standard, make sure no questions are confusing beacause of the wording, format it all, and align it in Edusoft. We do put in extra time outside of that hour, but we're not together as a department for that. So if you want tests that actually measure the students' knowledge, give your teachers enough time to write them!

    (This is only for science and history at my school. The English and math quarterly tests were written by an outside company, and they are the same from year to year.)
     
  8. Sshintaku

    Sshintaku Comrade

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    Mar 22, 2011

    We have department created benchmark tests for all core subjects, and luckily, we have access to a software full of standards linked test questions so it's kind of a view, click, add set up. I can't imagine how much work it would be to actually WRITE the benchmark.
     
  9. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Mar 22, 2011

    With the extra period the school has tacked onto the school day (which teachers are being paid for), I've been able to schedule common planning time for each department three times a week.This spring and summer, we'll meet a few times and divide into departments. First, we'll focus on a pacing guide--very loose but just discussing what needs to be covered in each term. I think I will leave specific pacing concerns up to each teacher keeping in my each class will take the same exam at the end of each trimester. Common planning time will be used to develop these exams and any other standardized assessments (essays and projects).

    I also think it is a good idea for each department to have the same grading policies for each course in terms of weighting and expectations. We'll hammer these details out after the pacing has been covered.

    In terms of teaching methods and strategies, I will provide teachers with all possible resources and strategies, but the choice will be up to them as long as I see them trying new things and using resources efficiently. Once exams and common assessments are hammered out in common planning, we'll use common planning time to collaborate on lessons and activities. I will not, however, be providing scripts for teachers to teach off of.

    I'm thinking of setting the grading scheme for the entire school in terms of weighting uniformly so their are some standards that are the same from class to class. We discussed previously:

    For the year:
    30% Final Exam
    70%: Trimester grades

    For each trimester:
    70%: trimester work
    30%: trimester exam

    The 70% for each each term's work will be decided by each department, so that Science can weight labs appropriately and English and History can weight essays appropriately.
     
  10. Sshintaku

    Sshintaku Comrade

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    Mar 22, 2011

    :D Man! Can I work at your school? Haha
     
  11. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Mar 22, 2011

    Brendan, for what it's worth, I have the syllabi for all the math courses we teach at my school.

    If you want to remind me of your email address, I'll get it all for you in case you want it as a reference.
     
  12. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Mar 23, 2011

    Anyone else? I thought we'd have more heated debate than this!
     
  13. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Mar 24, 2011

    Brendan, I really think that you are being fair and taking into account the teacher's ideas and knowledge. So, maybe no debate is needed, just a few job applications....
     

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