Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fitting Education reform into real life

I came across this story today about problems with a reform effort in North Carolina. The idea is to find some time for teachers to talk to each other about students and teaching. Typically, teachers have their prep time at different times from other teachers in the same department so opportunities to communicate and share information and knowledge are very limited. Promoting more and better communication is a good thing.

There are a couple problems with what is happening in Wake County. The first is that the school day has been disrupted every Wednesday to make time for the teachers to do this. So every family with a school age child has to change their routine on Wednesdays to adapt to the teachers. Not a good way to get community support. The second problem is that there are teachers who are not using the time to best advantage. Once the community hears that at least some teachers are the wasting the time created by inconveniencing the community, you know people are going to be very unhappy.

This program sounds like a good idea to me but my take is that it needs to be set up and executed in a way that minimizes disruption to life in the community. Perhaps different departments could have their scheduled communication times on different days while the remaining teachers supervise students. That way, there would not need to be any disruptions of the school day. Also, the program might work best on some kind of opt-in model where it would be used only in schools where the administration supports it. That would minimize the amount of wasted time.

In the end, when looking at education reforms, the practicalities of life and the school's place in the community have to be considered. Otherwise, the reforms fail and then there is a backlash against reform, which is the last thing we need.

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