Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Race to the Top may be Leaving Teachers Behind

There are some great teachers, and even some great Teacher Preparation programs, but these are random occurrences where consistency is essential. The reason is simple: Professional Education is missing fundamental standards found in all other professions.

There is no standard curriculum, no sincere effort to identify Best Instructional Practices, and truckloads of weak consultants and players with diluted degrees serving up their own brands of Faculty Development. To be called a profession it is imperative that a profession, one way or another, needs to convene a rolling forum to collect and prioritize the core content of principles and practices that every member ought to know.

Ironically, Teachers worldwide are being held to standards for annual yearly progress of their students. Meanwhile, Professors, Learned Societies & commercial schools, and some painfully self-serving non-profit foundations and Universities never even address the need for solid pedagogic content.

Worse, those that do publish material under titles referencing Best Practices are quite simply hype, if not fraudulent. The current crop of in-charge “Leaders” dangerously resembles the Investment Bankers who remain in charge of the economic systems that they nearly bankrupted.

Perhaps the only way to expose and reform this systemic disaster would be a class action by teachers &/or parents & students against all of us who have been complicit in these myriad layers of self-interest actions bordering on malpractice.

Since the likelihood of legal action is a remote idea it would be wonderfully unprecedented for a leveraged agency to hold a convention of the nation’s leading educators to consider and ideally endorse a covenant of principles and more importantly prescriptive practices ideally on a website that transparently allows these to be challenged, tweaked and further specified for different age-grade-situational conditions.

Additionally, such a rolling convention also could address differentiated staffing based on what schools are expected to do, and with a differentiated set of Best Practices for each function, like doctors and nurses, attorneys and paralegals, etc..

Schools are expected to carry-on three essential although overlapping functions: 1. Teach new concepts, content and a positive disposition toward self-directed learning; 2. Provide assessment and supervised practice in these objectives; and, 3. Operate a massive custodial role that keeps students in school for at least seven-nine hours a day for about 200 days a year for about 13 years, and now through at least 2 more years of college.

Our labour market and economic system depend on schools to meet these criteria at the very least. The problem is not the expectations, but that staffing, and organisation do not reflect these three societal essentials. And, sadly there is no real free market in ideas where one can buy into pre-sifted best practices and principles.

Meanwhile, please consider joining the websites below offering a potentially startup (heuristic) means of getting the current system moving in the right direction for all who teach. As an aside, taxpayers would be grateful since increasing classroom effectiveness and adding differentiated staffing could bring about efficiencies that could save billions of dollars with even the smallest degree of adoption. Please join the narrative. And…

Anthony V. Manzo, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus

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