Sunday, November 14, 2010

An error in pacing . . .

Over the last few weeks I have found myself reflecting on my work more than normal. Our Classroom 10 goal has been the reason for this reflection. I believe that we initiated a focus on key content, active learning, and checking for understanding before we were ready. Many questions have been asked by principals and teachers since we shared the goal at the opening breakfast. Not being able to answer all the questions or to provide the resources that some have requested has led to my added reflection.

Following the work of building leadership teams and an ad hoc team formed from these teams we have a teacher reflection document that I believe is a positive step in this work. They have created a document that provides more information about what Classroom 10 looks and sounds like when these characteristics are influencing interactions between teachers and students. It is also the tool we will be expecting all teachers to use in an online version to collect data for next year's refocus on this goal.

Yes, next year will be the real implementation of this goal because the system was not ready to support it for this year. Our eagerness and excitement about removing the word Draft from the document resulted in this premature goal and for that I take responsibility. The work we are now doing is setting the stage for implementation, providing answers to the questions, and creating the resources necessary to support this work.

I am feeling a sense of renewed energy by admitting that I made some mistakes in the planning for and pacing of this work.  It has resulted in changes that will have positive influence on our future and the work that we will do.  These changes include engaging teachers through the leadership teams in the development of future goals.

For this year, the system goal will consist of teachers self reflecting on the document referenced above.  The data will be used by T&L and the leadership teams to determine the scope of next year's goal and the structures that will be necessary to support teachers in this work. 


Ethan Smith said...

This one must have hit a nerve. My response is so long I’ve had to divide it into two posts!
I haven’t been enough a part of the conversations that led to the decision to delay the plan to hold teachers accountable to focusing their instruction on key content, using active learning strategies, and checking for understanding to understand how we got to this juncture or even how the decision was made. And I can’t say whether I would think differently had I been. I can say that I’m struggling with this one. If truly “holding people accountable” just means expecting that when people are confronted with data showing that their goals have not been reached they take action to achieve the goal in future, then what exactly does it mean to say that we are not ready to support the goal?
The goal is that every teacher “meet standard” in the three areas. Where it feels like we got lost in the work was in muddying up trying to define what meeting standard is with how we might go about measuring whether the standard has been met. I have been involved in state-level work to create learning standards and to create assessment systems that would reliably measure student mastery of those standards. One lesson that was always clear in both types of work is that when you are working to define what the standard is you must separate yourself from worrying about how the standard will be assessed. When you are working to design assessments you must avoid allowing yourself to consider the possibility of redefining the learning target. In either case, if you allow yourself to get distracted by the other when you should be focused on the one the outcome is never good. The goal should have been simple, all teachers meet standard in the three areas. Again, if holding people accountable just means expecting that people do something about it when confronted with data that shows that a goal hasn’t been met then setting arbitrary timelines or targets for moving on rubrics is not only counterproductive, it is counterintuitive.
We should have maintained our focus squarely on defining what focusing on key content, using active learning strategies, and checking for understanding looks and sounds like until we were crystal clear on that. Only then should we have begun to think about how we might go about assessing mastery of these “standards.”

Ethan Smith said...

Again, what does it mean to say that we are not ready to support the goal? What was the goal? For teachers the goal was that every teacher should achieve mastery in the three areas. For everyone who supports teachers the goal was to help teachers know whether they had achieved mastery and to facilitate learning for those who had not. Accountability means that we take action when faced with data that tells us we have not yet met our goal. It sounds to me like our system is doing just that. Teachers have a self-reflection tool that they can use to provide themselves with data that they can use to help them know if they have “arrived” at the goal. Building administrators, in theory at least (since this has always been the expectation), have the resources to be able to help teachers reflect upon their self-evaluation and take action. Yes, we have discovered that those who support teachers are not yet ready with a reliable system to get teachers an external assessment of their instruction. We have some data that tells us we have not achieved our goal yet. Are we holding ourselves accountable? Yes. At the system level work continues to create the tools and capacity to do this. It sounds like we are in a position to say we can hold ourselves (everyone) accountable to achieving our goal. It sounds like we are actually doing just that. We ARE supporting the goal. It seems like the next step, after the work is completed to create the tools and capacity to assess mastery, is to think carefully about what all we need to be in a position to provide in the way of additional support for those who discover that their practice has not yet reached mastery level in the three areas. Will we take this on? Yes.
If holding people accountable means expecting them to take action when confronted with data showing they have not yet achieved the goal and if the goal is that all teachers achieve mastery in the three areas (free from arbitrary timelines or progress targets) then it seems to me we are in good shape and should feel like we are continuing to press forward, not that we have had to take a step back.