31 Mar On “What Matters Most”
Every couple of weeks, Randi Weingarten, President of both United Federation of Teachers and American Federation of Teachers, takes out an ad in NY Times’ Week in Reviewsection and publishes her own op-ed piece, titled What Matters Most.
Sunday’s (March 8, 2009) installment touched on an issue that I believe is a keystone of any lasting reform efforts.
Unfortunately, the debate over education policy often ends up in a vacuum, producing a series of fads whose proponents rarely take into account how the latest fad will indeed work on the ground, or how it fits into the larger and more complex puzzle of school improvement. That is why teacher voices are so important.
She goes on to say,
And the best way to ensure success is to make sure that new policies are developed from the ground up, with teacher input . . . We know from experience that new policies that are sufficiently broad-based and are formulated and implemented with teachers rather than imposed on them have a much greater chance of success.
Listen to the language a top notch teacher uses when talking about quality education and compare that to the language of policy developed top-down. You’d rarely guess they want the same thing, but I think they do. I think they want all students to do well. The gaps between the two worlds reminds me of swiss cheese, marked by craters and holes. Whose responsibility is it to ensure teachers have a voice at the table?
Perhaps my colleague, Jessica Luallen Horton, has a point when she writes,
If we think we know better, it’s time for us to walk the walk, get loud. We need to get into local, state and national government offices. We need to be in the universities both as students and teachers. We need to be writing and reviewing curriculum used in our schools. We need to be active not just in our own schools, but across our state and our nation. It’s time to stop being affectedby change, and time to start affecting change.
Teachers can’t sit back and wait to be invited to make a difference. We need educators and administrators to speak their mind, to knock at the door and demand an answer when policies comes down the pipe smelling of last week’s newfangled fad. It is time that voices with some ground floor experience and wisdom find new avenues for being involved and shaping the debate.