The Teaching Life–Commitments and Positions

In early April, MetLife released the results of a big national survey of teachers designed that explores “teacher’s (sic) opinions and brings them to the attention of the American public and policymakers.”

You can get to the whole thing using this link right here. I’ve only read through the first part, which was pretty amazing in particular for the widespread belief in and commitment to collaboration. I think it was Lisa Delpit (an amazing education writer), but I could be wrong about that reference, who once (astutely, in my opinion) compared teachers in their classrooms to two-year-olds engaged in parallel play–only feet apart from each other, yet consistently and entirely oblivious to what is going on just feet away from themselves. It seems that our colleagues at the lower levels of schooling, despite being equally or similarly swamped in terms of load and student need (ever meet a teacher who wasn’t overwhelmed?), manage to carve out some time to get together to talk about students and student success, something that has proven tremendously challenging at HW.

Some interesting findings from that first section:

  • Two-thirds of teachers (67%) and three-quarters of principals (78%) think that greater collaboration among teachers and school leaders would have a major impact on improving student achievement.
  • On average, teachers spend 2.7 hours per week in structured collaboration with other teachers and school leaders, with 24% of teachers spending more than 3 hours per week.
  • The most frequent type of collaborative activities are teachers meeting in teams to learn what is necessary to help their students achieve at higher levels; school leaders sharing responsibility with teachers to achieve school goals; and beginning teachers working with more experienced teachers. A majority of teachers and principals report that these activities occur frequently at their school.
  • The least frequent type of collaborative activity is teachers observing each other in the classroom and providing feedback. Less than one-third of teachers or principals report that this frequently occurs at their school.

I mean, do you know anyone who spends 2 and half hours per week in structured collaboration (let’s say a planning meeting) with a colleague talking about anything, much less “what is necessary to help their students achieve at higher levels?”

Talk about silos…

Reform of Schooling: Diane Ravitch and President Obama

It’s education reform Sunday for some reason.

Hot on the heels of the National Standards announcement, here, for your enjoyment, is an interesting review from Slate.com of Diane Ravitch’s new book which is giving NCLB supporters everything from headaches to apoplexies.

Much has already been made of Ravitch’s book, in which she has renounced her long-standing support of charter schools and NCLB. Her change of heart is notable because she is one of the nation’s most serious and credible education scholars. In a career spanning four decades, she’s written multiple histories and been an influential voice in policy debates, challenging both the reflexive right and left at different points over the years. But like a general who can no longer ignore the mounting casualties of a war she helped to propagate, she now argues the battle cannot be won under the current terms of engagement. In this sense, her book arrives with the force of the Pentagon Papers. Ravitch, of course, isn’t revealing state secrets—but it sometimes seems as if she is, given how counter much of the evidence she presents runs to prevailing wisdom about education reform.

Then, President Obama used his Saturday address to look ahead beyond the health care debate toward the next site of political mayhem, the expiring NCLB legislation. You can see his speech on the White House’s Blog site.

I’m sure the political shows are full of jibber jabber on all of this, too.