Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Default setting: Change the Policy

I was in a teacher's meeting today which was basically an outlet for staff members to express their troubles with a district policy that allows students to retake assessments. The typical arguments arose "We are enabling them to be irresponsible" "Why should they get more than one chance, I never did?" "Kids aren't doing homework to prepare for assessments, we need to return to the practice of grading homework"

I understand the frustrations of my fellow staff members and I am not blogging this to mock them. But I see an unfortunate trend when it comes to trying to make change happen in my school. The policy change. For some reason the major push always seems to be to create a new policy or take out and old one. Apparently, that is change. If it's posted on the wall, in a handbook, or just plain written down, it's change. This seems a little cynical, sorry.

But I struggle why we never look at the underlying issues of these symptoms.
Symptom: Students aren't doing homework, or adequately preparing for tests and assessments. Root cause? Who knows, because we don't discuss that part. Worse yet, we forgot to ask the patient-- the student.

One of my colleagues did just that after the meeting today. One answer, "the homework we are given doesn't help us on the assessment, it's just given to us in a packet that we are not taught about, just handed out." I'm not saying that teenagers' words aren't often designed to get to the path of least resistance for them, I'm just saying that we have not started to truly reflect on the way we run our classes to expect real learning from our students.

We never want to start in a teacher's class room when it comes to changes in a school, we always push the mark as far away from the teacher as possible. Maybe because hard working teachers put a lot of effort into their work and any questioning is a sign of a dissatisfaction with the staff member.

I know I am kind of rambling on tonight but I just hope that our conversations can morph into examining the underlying issues of student motivation, relevance of our curriculum, learning strategies (not teaching strategies) and the use of assessments for diagnostics, not just summative evaluations.

1 comment:

Mrs. W. said...


I wish our Middle School and High School faculty and administration would read this post!

You are exactly right!
Teachers (including me) often lose sight of who are clients are - the kids!