People have very different ideas about what should be going on in our nation’s classroom. But beyond that, they have very different ideas about how to make sure it’s likely to happen. And this looks really different in proposed assessment of teachers’ on-the-job performance.
Here are two examples of strikingly different approaches.
The United Federation of Teachers in New York City contract proposes that after a three-year-long vetting period, teachers receive tenure for life and be paid based on their years on the job. This means that after that period of assessment, they cannot be fired, demoted, or paid less if they are not judged to be doing a satisfactory job.
A new Colorado law proposes to connect teacher evaluations to their students’ achievement test scores as a portion of evidence that shows their students’ progress, which will be 50 percent of their evaluation. Teachers found to be “ineffective” for two years running could potentially lose their jobs.
At least part of the impetus behind the change is the “Race to the Top”—the contest that offers $4.3 billion to states willing to overhaul their public schools if they are willing to enact a package of reforms that includes improved curriculum standards, among other things. But a key point is that more than a fifth of the points each state can earn for its proposal is based on the state’s commitment to get rid of the tenure-for-life approach to teachers’ job security and stop the practice of tying teachers’ compensation only to seniority, without taking account of any performance indicators.
To understand more about what’s taking place in education reform right now, we recommend two articles;
• “The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand”
• “Colorado education law may mark a national shift”
And for basic background on the elements involved in the reform movement, read our article “Education Reform.”
The Comprehensive School Reform program
was started in 1998 as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which became law in 2002. The program was started as one of the parts of the No Child Left Behind Act.
The goal of the program is to improve student achievement by using proven methods and strategies to create comprehensive school reform. It helps build upon and encourage state and local efforts to create higher standards and improvements in schools
. The program aims to expand educational opportunities to allow all children to meet the new academic challenges and standards.
The school reform focuses on all aspects of education rather than trying to fix one small thing at a time. To qualify for funding the school must show a willingness to adopt to the 11 guidelines spelled out in the legislation. Which are:
- Employs proven methods and strategies based on scientific research.
- Integrates a comprehensive desing with aligned components.
- Provides ongoing, high-quality professional development for teachers and staff.
- Provides support for teachers, administrators and staff.
- Provides for meaningful parent and community involvement in planning, implementing and evaluating school improvement activities.
- Uses high quality external technical support and assistance from an external partner with experience and expertise in schoolwide reform and improvement.
- Plans for the evaluation of strategies for the implementation of school reforms and for teh student results achieved, annually.
- Identifies resources to support and sustain the school’ comprehensive reform effort.
- Has been found to signifigantly improve the academic achievement of students or deomonstrates strong eveidence that it will improve the academic achievements of students.
The main focus of the program is to foster schoolwide change especially in schools where there is the greatest need for it. The funds are allocated for the schools that show the greatest need but also the greatest desire for improvement and the commitment to improving student achievement.
As time goes by education reform tends to get better and better and teachers, parents, and administrators are willing to take another look at things to better the education system for our students. While all of the new ideas like modular education, looping and block scheduling are great and may work for some schools it is important to take a look at the pros and cons of each before venturing into them. This post will discuss block scheduling.
Block scheduling or modular scheduling is meant to provide a longer time span for students in each subject. Traditional school days are usually broken into six subjects that are each given 50 minutes. Block schedules can be broken up into man different formats. One school went from a traditional day to having two days a week of traditional days and three days where the students went to four subjects for 80 minutes each. Others may use what is considered a 4X4 schedule. This is where each semester the student only has four classes. So a normal year long class is only one semester long and a semester class is only one quarter long.
Pros of block scheduling:
- Teachers and students spend more time together each day and therefore the relationship can improve and the teacher can really understand and meet the needs of the student.
- Longer class periods are ideal for labs and cooperative learning activities.
- The students may retain more information because they are receiving less new information daily. They can really take the time to grasp the concept presented.
- Overall students have less homework because they have time to do it in class.
- With more time teachers can help students with different learning styles and special needs.
- The longer a teacher teaches in this style the less planning it takes and the more learning can be done.
Cons of block scheduling:
- The schedule can feel choppy and lack continuity.
- When a day is missed in a block schedule is the equivalent of two or more days on a traditional system. This means more make up work and a student can easily get way behind.
- For teachers on the 4X4 schedule they can feel like they don’t have enough time to fit in all of the curriculum if a normal semester course has to be done in a quarter.
- 4X4 teachers find it difficult to cover all the information in an AP course for students.
This method of scheduling is so new that there really are not studies to prove one way or the other as far as if this works for students and teachers. As with most things it has both positives and negatives.
The education world as we know it in the United States is about to change. President Obama has put education reform at the top of his priority list. He has stated, “In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity, it is a prerequisite.”
This is a bold statement to me, it tells me if we are going to stand strong as a country, and be able to compete intellectually on a global level, we have got to start taking education seriously and make some significant changes.
Our most recent article addresses some of the education reform issues such as; school choice (public, magnet, charter), school financial reform, standardized education, and more…