Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The right focus . . .

Alexander Russo in this Education Week post shares a study out of the Brookings Institute shedding light on the importance of instructional materials and the interactions between teacher, student, and these materials in classrooms. In the opening paragraph of the Executive Summary, the authors point out the gap between this focus and that of the education reform movement.

Students learn principally through interactions with people (teachers and peers) and instructional materials (textbooks, workbooks, instructional software, web-based content, homework, projects, quizzes, and tests). But education policymakers focus primarily on factors removed from those interactions, such as academic standards, teacher evaluation systems, and school accountability policies. It’s as if the medical profession worried about the administration of hospitals and patient insurance but paid no attention to the treatments that doctors give their patients.

The title of the report, “Choosing Blindly – Instructional Materials, Teacher Effectiveness, and the Common Core”, affirms the focus of our Classroom 10 work and our continual efforts to align instructional materials with what seem to be ever changing standards. This will once again be necessary as the state moves to the Common Core standards. This effort is under way in our system with K-7 teachers and administrators meeting today and staff from 8-12 beginning later this spring. The report’s authors suggest that the move to Common Core and the current focus on teacher evaluation will not yield the reform movements expected results without also looking more closely at the critical interactions between teacher, student, and instructional materials.

The Common Core standards will only have a chance of raising student achievement if they are implemented with high-quality materials, but there is currently no basis to measure the quality of materials. Efforts to improve teacher effectiveness will also fall short if they focus solely on the selection and retention of teachers and ignore the instructional tools that teachers are given to practice their craft.

Reviewing this report is reaffirming as our Teaching and Learning Department over a long period of time has known the importance of this critical interaction in the classroom and worked to assure the necessary alignment. This alignment and the focus on our Outcomes and Indicators and thinking skills has been the primary reason why much of our curriculum has been developed in our system and not purchased. Perhaps this may be one of the reasons why our young people do so well as opposed to what was suggested in a recent newspaper article out of Atlanta.

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