The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) recently examined educational systems in Canada, China, Finland, Japan and Singapore, surmising that America can solve its educational crisis by looking at it like manufacturing at the turn of the 20th century.
"We took the best ideas in steelmaking, industrial chemicals and many other fields from England and Germany and others and put them to work here on a scale that Europe could only imagine," argues the NCCE report.
I think some of the best ideas are closer than China. They come from classroom teachers, daily practitioners who get results by slamming the door softly on the noise piped into lesson plans that many are no longer allowed to write.
What ideas do Rockdale Career Academy teachers have as they positively impact county-wide math achievement without teaching a single direct instruction math class at the academy?
What do the ideas of teachers look like at Heard-Mixon Elementary, turning math achievement around through data analysis and utilizaton andbringing the title Georgia School of Excellence to the modest rural school?
NCEE recommends reallocation of money, to spend more on high-quality teachers and less on state-of-the-art school facilities, new textbooks and administrators.
Local high schools leading the way in newly-released fiscal year 2012 SAT scores are Morgan County High, Heritage High, Eastside High and Social Circle High. Nice enough buildings but not necessarily state-of-the-art.
I remember when I taught my first class of seniors nearly 26 years ago at what was then West Fulton High School. I recall a teacher who was chastised for wearing tennis shoes while facilitating science labs. Students were engaged; her administrator was not.
She endured opposition from the administrator focused on shoes rather than instruction. Weary, she retired early and the administrator was later forced out over an ethics flap.
I recall another teacher who fought school administrators drunk on whole language and paradigm shifts. She taught direct reading instruction; she got results. Data proved it. But the pressure built, she left and data did not treat future students kindly.
Research on effective schools characterizes them as schools where teacher retention is high.
The challenge? Examine schools where faculty and staff turnover is high, where faculty and student retention is low and ask why. The answers reveal themselves.
Supporting classroom teachers will go further than any of the fancy rhetoric and initiatives spun by mind-numbing spin doctors holding after-school specials on curriculum mapping.
For decades we have stolen classroom instruction from the experts. How's it working for us?
I recommend restoring instructional control to the experts, supporting them and putting them at the top of the heap.
Above all, seek anecdotal exit interview data from departing employees as part of system protocol and internal control with legal protection for their honesty. Make appropriate use of exit data in building level evaluations.
My money's on the intellectual capital walking out the door in tennis shoes.
Jeff Meadors may be contacted at email@example.com