"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Who the Hell Wants to Let Teachers Teach?"

I have not read the book "Trusting Teachers with School Success".


But Kim Farris-Berg, one of the authors, provided a preview in a recent guest post in the blog "EduWonk".  She wrote:
"“Who the hell wants to let teachers teach?” These policy makers want “innovation,” but their approach to education policy doesn’t encourage it – at least not from teachers. It doesn’t occur to most that trusting teachers, not controlling them, could be the key to school success. Instead we are stuck on the idea that the best and only means to K-12 improvement is to get better at holding teachers accountable for the results of a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all formula for K-12 teaching."
Somehow, the above parallels what others have said (which have been quoted previously in this blog). A former teacher in the Philippines, who is now residing in the US, provided the following comment:
"In the Science K+12 Curriculum Guide, it is stated: 'Rather than relying solely on textbooks, varied hands-on, minds-on, and hearts-on activities will be used to develop students’ interest and let them become active learners.' Is this the reason why DepEd did not provide Grade 7 students with a science textbook that addresses the new content standards? Are we to assume then that the modules that DepEd has developed will deliver the promised hands-on, minds-on and hearts-on learning? With these modules, DepEd seems hellbent on dictating not only WHAT teachers should teach but also HOW and WHEN to teach them."
This is echoed in an observation made by Rep. Palatino:
"...the prefabricated learning materials were designed by ‘experts’ in such a way that the only creative task required of teachers is to unpack them, follow the specific instructions in the kit, and then grade the students. Even the learning guides already contained exact examples and details of course content, teaching methods, and test sheets which teachers are required to use inside the classroom. Under K-12, teachers are subjected to a ruthlessly efficient reskilling and deskilling process...."
In stark contrast, in our department, at the university level, we, the faculty, do indeed call the shots.

We design our curriculum and each faculty member has the responsibility and freedom to choose what goes into a course syllabus. Each one has goals, but we do recognize standards outside ourselves. We pay attention to accreditation guidelines. We pay attention to what we think our students need and deserve. Our goals are clear - the education of our students is our primary objective. This standard guides us in all ways, thus, in our diverse sets of styles, we recognize that we must tune our approaches to best suit each student. A teacher is entrusted with the education of a pupil. Each pupil is a person and oftentimes, adjustments are made. This can be done on an individual level, if time and resources permit or made with the entire class. It is really difficult to give the same lecture twice when one is tuned to how the audience is responding. A teacher without this freedom cannot innovate. One could not expect teachers to reinvent themselves without the freedom to do so. Responsibility must come with ability. It can only come with empowerment.

Kim Farris Berg's book is described as follows (as it relates to education reform in the United States):
Lately, our nation’s strategy for improving our schools is mostly limited to “getting tough” with teachers. Blaming teachers for poor outcomes, we spend almost all of our energy trying to control teachers’ behavior and school operations. But what if all of this is exactly the opposite of what is needed? What if teachers are the answer and not the problem? What if trusting teachers, and not controlling them, is the key to school success? 
Examining the experiences of teachers who are already trusted to call the shots, this book answers: What would teachers do if they had the autonomy not just to make classroom decisions, but to collectively—with their colleagues—make the decisions influencing whole school success? Decisions such as school curriculum, how to allocate the school budget, and whom to hire. 
Teachers with decision-making authority create the schools that many of us profess to want. They individualize learning. Their students are active (not passive) learners who gain academic and life skills.The teachers create school cultures that are the same as those in high-performing organizations. They accept accountability and innovate, and make efficient use of resources. These promising results suggest: it’s time to trust teachers.
The above is quite similar to how Finland describes its education system (Education Policies for Raising Student Learning: The Finnish Approach, Journal of Education Policy, Vol. 22, No. 2, March 2007, pp. 147–171):
...Intelligent accountability in the Finnish education context preserves and enhances trust among teachers, students, school leaders and education authorities in the accountability processes and involves them in the process, offering them a strong sense of professional responsibility and initiative....
This is perhaps one of the reasons why Finland's education system is among the top in the world.



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