Thursday, September 11, 2014


Mrs. Smith, Members of the School Board, Dr. Newsome:

Two weeks ago I called this year a return to hope and declared it the year of the employee

What do those who work directly with children like the most about their jobs?  Watching children grow.  While new teachers might need helping hands from those around them, and sometimes even experienced teachers need a bit of help to expand their repertoire, most teachers work tirelessly and confidently to provide the best learning environment possible under the circumstances in which we work.

But sometimes administrators get in the way of the progress.  If you want to bog a teacher down and impede her progress toward designing and implementing stellar lessons, you simply have to tell her how to teach, or what to teach, or when to teach it, and how much time to spend on it, and how often to remediate, and don’t forget to teach to—I mean prepare for—that state standardized test.

Standardized tests don’t measure the whole student, nor do they quantify the breadth or depth of a student’s learning.  Each student is different, and doing some things more often doesn’t necessarily make students better at them.  I know: I speak from experience.

If you want writing scores improved, just ask teachers, and they’ll get right on it.  Of course, they’ll need the time to confer in professional learning communities—and time is a costly commodity.  It’s easier to mandate certain actions.  But that way is so much less productive where we want the most progress—in the classroom with the students.

If you want teachers to raise student scores on the new-and-improved, though fewer, elementary standardized tests, provide them the time to do what you ask.  If you want good results, don’t tell them how to do the task you have set before them.  Don’t ask them to make creative lessons by filling out a standardized lesson format.  They can teach to the test if that is what you want, but they can’t be creative in a standardized way.

The best managers hire the best people then get out of their way.  Can CCPS make this claim?  CEA has hope that we can.  But it’s going to take a lot of patience on the part of a lot of employees to get those who impose decisions on them up to snuff.

So let’s return to hope.  Hope that our teachers will be trusted to devise the solutions to the problem of lagging state test scores.  Hope that our community will value our schools the way they used to.  Hope that those who call themselves leaders will come up with the only thing that can provide the time necessary to become better than we are: money.