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These are schools with more than 90 percent of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, more than 90 percent are minority students, and more than 90 percent of students met high academic standards on the state’s Standards of Learning tests.

   Where are these mythical 90/90/90 schools, what are they doing, and why aren't we doing it? The first two answers can be found in the artcile, "High Performance in High Poverty Schools". The last answer is a little trickier. You see, our urban schools in Minnesota are trying to implement the strategies from the 90/90/90 philosophy.

    The headline of this article is somewhat misleading in that the 90/90/90 strategies are not a silver bullet. They take time, and they are not a one shot deal. It is a way of operating in a consistent, and habitual manner with a laser focus on high student achievement. The biggest hurdle to this program is that it requires an entire paradigm shift in how we operate as professionals.

   For centuries, literally, teachers have operated as autonomous contractors in their individual classroom kingdoms. Principals have operated as building administrators, not instructional leaders. If we are going to make big changes, the very fiber of what it means to teach is going to have to change.

   The problem is that today's "reformers", progressive and conservative, Democrat and Republican, are all stuck in a 19th century paradigm of teaching. What works in these 90/90/90 schools are teams of teachers working in collaboration where all students belong to all teachers.    

   Meanwhile, the reformers want us to go back to the days when we pretended each teacher had "their" students, as if no other teacher had an impact on the child's education. Teachers have to change, which is hard enough as it is, but the reformers want us back in our isolated classroom kingdoms, where we are ineffective. Teachers working in collaboration is the most powerful reform to come around in a century, yet we want to focus on the individual.

Please continue reading after the break.

Cross posted at MNProgressiveProject

  There is no hero teacher waiting to Stand And Deliver success. There is no Dangerous Mind saving our urban schools. That stuff only happens in movies and corporate think tanks. Queen of reform Michelle Rhee has even said that collaboration is "over rated".  She believes in the "Super-man" myth, when what we need is a "super-team".

In trying to improve American public schools, educators, policymakers, and philanthropists are overselling the role of the highly skilled individual teacher and undervaluing the benefits that come from teacher collaborations that strengthen skills, competence, and a school’s overall social capital.
 Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society

    There is zero evidence linking achievement to collective bargaining, seniority rules, or due process rights. There are mountains of evidence that teachers working in collaborative groups can over come great, great odds. Putting the focus on the individual teacher is how we have always, always done it. It doesn't work.

    Why aren't the reformers focusing on groups of teachers helping groups of kids? Well, it costs more. You must pay extra staff so teachers can have time to meet. However, if you talk to most principals and most teachers, they will agree it is worth it. Can you imagine, labor and management all believe this is the way. They all want to paddle in the same direction. The people who do this for a living all agree this is the way.

    Secondly, teacher collaboration is not visceral or sexy in a political sense. Attacking the big, bad union dragon is sexy. Blaming teachers gives us a visceral release. In a society driven more and more by fear based reasoning, finding a villain and a white knight (Rhee) makes us feel safe. Finally, if we cannot even agree how to assess individual teachers, how an we assess groups of teachers.

     When teachers meet in collaborative groups, the synergy makes them all stronger. They plan out each week, and then check up on each other to see how they are doing. It is almost impossible to be a bad teacher when you have the pressure of exposing yourself every single week to your peers. There is no higher or more constant accountability. When you are struggling there is no better professional development. Meeting with a wide range of teachers every single week to learn from young and old alike is critical. There is no higher or constant way of doing teacher development.

    The reformers have good intent. What they say sounds great on the surface to the uninformed. Kind of like, "Tax Cuts Make Jobs," "Bad Teachers are killing kids." It's a zombie myth. Support kids and you support teachers. Support teachers and you support kids.  

Originally posted to AlecMN on Wed Nov 23, 2011 at 03:48 PM PST.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm a firm believer and rabid supporter of (13+ / 0-)

    multi-age classrooms.  I taught in them for three years and they were the best and most successful years of my career.  Two of them were in an inner city school.  The challenges there were immense because we followed a teacher who had done next to nothing the year before.  The kids weren't used to the fast pace that we had, or to working at all, for that matter.  Still, once we got in sync, it was AWESOME.

    Of course, multi-age classrooms are more expensive because it takes more than one teacher (at least in the way we implemented it), but the results were amazing.  To give credit where it's due, I had great co-teachers the whole time.  We had good chemistry, a great mix of skills and knowledge, and absolutely no feeling of competition between us.  

    That will always be one of the most cherished memories of my life.  Unfortunately, I don't see us ever being willing to devote those kind of resources to kids.  After all, kids don't vote...

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Wed Nov 23, 2011 at 05:38:05 PM PST

    •  My kids go to multi age (5+ / 0-)

      We're in a large, urban district. My kids are doing great in the multi age classrooms.  Move to Saint Paul and you can teach in them again:-)

      •  It's cold enough (5+ / 0-)

        in Iowa.  :-)  I'm a little old to have to recertify in a different state, but it sure is tempting.  I swear it energized me, made me feel younger and much more effective as a teacher.  Urban sounds just right for me.  I've worked with working poor, inner city, and middle class kids.  I prefer the first two, hands down.  

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Wed Nov 23, 2011 at 06:33:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  but kids grow up into voters, so a key challenge.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries

      ... to teachers, is to plant some viral memes in the kids' heads that will encourage them to remember how they felt when they were kids.   Something along the lines that if you want to obligate others to do something for you, then you are also obligating yourself to do likewise for others.  

      Otherwise, kids grow into voters who are more concerned with their own desires than with what the next generation of kids who can't vote need, deserve, or should have.  

      The principle of reciprocal obligation under like circumstances ("I want adults to give me good schools, so when I'm an adult I'm obligated to give the next generation of kids good schools") has elements of the Golden Rule and the Kantian Categorical Imperative.  So it's not as if the foundations for this don't already exist in our culture, in both religious and secular philosophies.  

      "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Wed Nov 23, 2011 at 10:29:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  it sounds more (7+ / 0-)

    as if this is about creating a culture of achievement with teams of professionals.

    This is kind of like what happened in healthcare when the entire sector realized it needed to focus on creating a culture of safety.

    It is an entirely different way to approach the organization of work, responsibility and professional boundaries.  

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Wed Nov 23, 2011 at 07:17:43 PM PST

    •  You bet (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nulwee, historys mysteries

      The reformers would like to think they are making changes, but they are still working off an old paradigm.

      •  though, the whole point of UNIONS... (7+ / 0-)

        ... is team solidarity and cooperation for common goals.

        The problem is that unions thus far tend to focus on the economic needs and quality of work life of their members, rather than also including items about the entire paradigm under which the work is constructed.   The latter gets "dismissed" as "visionary," when in fact we need a greater emphasis on "visionary" thinking, in order to achieve something like a successful future.

        We didn't send astronauts to the moon by staring at the dog turds in front of us on the sidewalk.  We sent them there by dreaming big dreams and having bold visions, and then having the will to carry them out.

        "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Wed Nov 23, 2011 at 10:33:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think that (4+ / 0-)

          the locals are often overwhelmed because there is always so much fighting to be done when it comes to protecting their members. Every district near me has cut pay, taken furlough days, shut down schools, and/or reduced health benefits in the past several years. I see unions not only fighting to protect those things, but also trying to keep districts from increasing class sizes or eliminating parent ESL classes at adult schools. They fight for students and teachers and often don't have the time or resources (only 30% of our union dues stay with the local union) to go for more.

          •  all the more important to promote a vision. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nominalize

            Fighting each of the specifics is playing defense and still conceding the overall pattern to our adversaries.

            Promoting a vision is fighting their pattern with our pattern and going on the offense.  

            The important part is the pattern, the paradigm, under which all of the specifics are included.  The human brain is optimised for pattern-seeking and pattern-recognition: it takes much effort to memorize a list of unrelated details, but a general pattern is inherently memorable and "makes sense" of the rest of the details so they stick in mind as well.  

            "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 03:59:28 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BMarshall

              I just also understand that the local unions are pretty weak and don't have the resources to do as much as they should. It's hard because most of us teachers don't have time to give to support union actions because we are so busy with our classes. I had to step down from being union rep this year because when I included all of the committees and leadership roles I took on last year, I found myself working 12-13 hour days way too often. I think that the state wide and national unions absolutely need to shift their patterns, but I have compassion for the local leadership.

              •  I work 12 - 13 hour days as teacher and union rep (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Renee M

                For the ten months of the year that school is open my work day is rarely less than 12 hours long. Part of my day does include being the union rep in my building. If more teachers took the time to educate themselves about the broader political issues that are impacting the teaching profession and then decided to stand and work 'collaboratively' outside of the small comfort zone of their individual classrooms, our unions would not be weak they would be strong.

                Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

                by BMarshall on Fri Nov 25, 2011 at 04:24:22 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  That's not true G2 (0+ / 0-)

          I can show you our bargaining list for this round of contract talks. Pay and benefits are not even on it this year.

          Pay and benefits are the only things ever printed in the paper, but that doesn't mean all these other, less sensational things aren't going on.

          In addition, it seems like people think you can divorce the teaching environment from the learning environment. As if a good or bad teaching environment has no impact on the learning environment. Turns out they are interdependent.

          •  Excellent! Do it!, and also promote it widely! (0+ / 0-)

            Most of us never see that part because it doesn't get enough publicity.  

            One thing to keep in mind is to avoid "going meta" about the name you're using for the paradigm.  

            For example don't say e.g. "This year we are unveiling a plan called Education for the 21st Century ...."  

            As soon as you say "a plan called..." that's meta: speaking from one level above the subject matter.  

            Instead, say e.g. "Americans need to be concerned with education for the 21st century..." or similar language, that subsumes the name of "the plan" by making it a "generic noun phrase" and thereby embedding it as an assumption rather than a point of contention.  

            The goal here is to make the phrase "education for the 21st century" stick in peoples' minds so that when they see a document titled "Education for the 21st Century" the vision outlined in the document becomes more accessible because the title is already familiar as a generic noun phrase that has helped shape the public debate.  

            Yes the Republicans use this technique all the time, with their infamous "talking points" and "staying on-message."  They use it because it works.

            "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 04:12:07 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Yes . . . (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AnnieJo, caul, BMarshall

          I would have preferred the diarist indicate the research shows no improvement with the reduction of unions, creative bargaining, etc., but I'm not sure what the source was.  And the unsupported statement of "zero evidence" is questionable.
              Your key point, the connection between union of workers and union of goals is on track.  The school I retired from (in Wisconsin, natch) is being wrecked by the lack of unity inspired by the horrendous new Walker regime.  Earlier attempts at more coordinated efforts such as the diarist describes were thwarted by the too-big size of the school and lack of time and overall commitment from board and administration to doing it right . . . all largely driven by ten years of severe budgetary restrictions on schools which have now been ratcheted but and applied to most local governmental institutions.

          •  My point (0+ / 0-)

            My key point is why focus on union bashing when the evidence for it being a problem isn't there. The evidence doesn't say, neccessarily, that unions are good or bad for achievement.

            We also spoke to Andy Rotherham, co-founder of the non-profit Bellwether Education Partners, an education columnist for TIME.com and the blog Eduwonk.com, and co-editor of the book "Collective Bargaining in Education."

            "On its face, it's true," Rotherham said of Weingarten's claim. "Massachusetts (a strong union state) does better than Virginia or Alabama. What it ignores is all of the things that influence student achievement."

            "It's a classic correlation-causation fallacy," said Rotherham, who previously served at the White House as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy during the Clinton administration.

            Ultimately, he said, research is mixed and there is no study that can definitively settle whether unions are, or are not, the problem with student achievement.

            "Sweeping statements one way or the other on this should be viewed with suspicion," Rotherham said.

            •  Thanks for the followup. (0+ / 0-)

              Yes, that all seems reasonable, so I think I understood your basic intent on that sub-point: unions are not the issue one way or another regarding student achievement, or at least there is no real evidence to indicate that.
                  Again, the key overall theme of your diary seemed sharp and consistent with my teaching experience.  Real teamwork and coordinated effort and shared responsibility, if I read it right.

  •  All of my states' schools are organized into (8+ / 0-)

    teams--is this actually not common? At my school we loop too, meaning that we spend two years with the same kids. My team is awesome, we work really hard and are uber-professionals but it surely isn't a silver bullet. One of us is always on the edge of burn out and we don't know how long we can keep this work up. It is hard and the public couldn't give a shit about education. Nothing is a silver bullet so don't get caught up in another magic cure.

  •  Why did you include this? (9+ / 0-)
    There is zero evidence linking achievement to collective bargaining, seniority rules, or due process rights.

    Is there evidence that teacher collective bargaining and student achievement are mutually exclusive?

    I'm not in favor of any school reform that requires teachers to give up all their rights as workers. They are workers, not saints.

    In my own career I was committed to excellence and giving 100% while I was at work, but that didn't mean I wasn't concerned with my own working conditions, work-life balance and compensation. I expect everyone else to be as well.

    We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

    by denise b on Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 12:05:17 AM PST

  •  Thank you! (7+ / 0-)

    Here are my class stats from last year:
    90% low income
    100% minority
    89% proficient/advanced in ELA (and this is in California where the tests and standards are more difficult than in other states)

    I did NOT rely on test prep to get these results. I was at a school that had a culture of group responsibility for the kids. We saw every student as OUR students and because of this we all cared for all of them and wouldn't hesitate to intervene if we saw any child in a difficult situation. Teachers had a huge amount of input into how things were run. We ran professional development and had feedback loops that allowed us to constantly shift what we were doing in order to meet the needs of everyone involved (staff, admin, teachers, kids, and families). We had collaboration time built into our weekly schedule. Because collaboration and sharing were such a normal part of the school's culture, organic lunch time discussions often resembled problem solving protocols in which we would discuss classroom challenges and help each other problem solve. Teachers were treated like professionals. Evaluations involved conversations about our teaching practice. Our professional development included many strategies that allowed us all to align our practice with methods that were reasonable and left room for individuality.

    This year I switched schools because like an idiot I thought I needed a bigger challenge. I have zero support. The admin does not believe in consequences, so our yard is extremely violent. If teachers try to intervene when we see a child doing something inappropriate we are cussed at by students and then undermined by admin who want to keep suspension numbers artificially low and tend to believe kids over adults. When teachers voice their frustration with the chaos we see at lunch we are told that the situation is our fault because we are bad teachers. The time that is offered for collaboration is constrained by parameters that make it inauthentic. My administrators don't demonstrate a deep understanding of strong pedagogy. Teachers are so frustrated by the violence that we are demoralized and do not share much about our teaching practice. Since there is no built in time for real collaboration, it becomes difficult to develop trusting relationships and share. Evaluations are based on your decorating skills (what is posted on your walls) rather than on what teachers are doing in their lessons. There is little guidance as to what they are looking for beyond your desks being set up in a way to facilitate some kind of group work or having some vocabulary words on the wall. There are never any discussions about how to use group work to encourage language development or methods for choosing the best vocabulary words for study.

    I keep modifying my strategies, but I can't seem to overcome the lunchtime chaos. It's extremely difficult to settle everyone down in the afternoons, much less have them participate in the kind of interactive group work I used to have my students do at my old school.

    Am I suddenly a terrible teacher because this is true? I don't think so. I know that I could do a great job with these kids, but that my job is exponentially more difficult because of the environment I am working in. It's really not the access to funding that is the problem (although I have fewer technological and other resources at this school). The problem is that when you are not in an environment that promotes real collaboration and strong teaching, it is extremely difficult to do a good job.

  •  We have been organized into "families" for (6+ / 0-)

    a couple of decades, now, at our middle school.  We have 1100+ students, grades 5-8, and we are organized into families of 120 students who all have the same 4 core teachers for math, social studies, science, and language arts.  Each group of team teachers are VERY close and we get to know our students (and parents) VERY well over the course of the year. This organizational structure allows us to create a small school focus and experience within a very large school -- which allows us to care for and provide additional support for our tweens.  They go to together, on field trips, participate in special events, and know we know them and care for them -- They have a smaller group identity and do service projects/ fund raising etc as a team.  We also have a dedicated special ed teacher who is included as part of our team to collaborate and participate in our classes as a team teacher for our mainstreamed, special ed students.

    We meet as a team every week to collaborate on family events, schedules, field trips, struggling students, parent meetings, monthly recognition of academic and behavioral excellence special events, and special events ...

    For example, we altered our schedule yesterday to allow us to all show "Desperate Crossing" -- the History Channel show about the pilgrims as our last event of the day.  We designed the materials to go with the program to include not only social studies activities, but also math, language arts, and science.  How?  Rate/ time/ distance problems for the different legs of the trip plus the average available space on the ship per passenger (which the kids then measured out and were suitably freaked out about). The science underlying scurvy and the effect of Old World pathogens on indigenous populations really interested students, and they finished off with imaginary letters home about their experience.  The letters were hysterical, and I know we have 120 who went home with a greater sense of thanksgiving for their modern lives and empathy for what happened to indigenous people as a result of colonization.  

    In addition to our "core teams," we also meet once a week as grade level content teams and once a month as a content faculty.  I LOVE working with content partners.  We have a standard curriculum and collaborate on planning, setting up experiments and the preparation of materials.  We don't have to do the same things -- and we have the freedom to do different things -- but we usually do share most things.  This allows us to each focus on putting together a couple of really terrific lessons a week which we then share.  This makes for A LOT of well thought out, highly motivational, hands-on kinds of lab work/ experiential learning.  

    We also use common content assessments which we create together -- that are pulled from released items from the ACT Plan and Explore series or are written in the same format.  Namely, a section of experiemental data results with 4-5 questions which challenge our students to apply their learning to demonstrate whether or not they have truly mastered the unit science objectives.  We then meet to analyze patterns post-exam and design any remediation lessons before we move on to the next unit.  

    Our cross grade level content team meets once a month to collaborate on things like having a coordinated, tiered format for lab reports and to better understand how the curriculum builds from year-to-year.  For example, we know what we can expect students to already know about chemistry from the year before, and we can even refer to key activities/ experiments from the year before to help students recall prerequisite knowledge.

    Our school has a 35% free and reduced lunch population and we consistently out perform the higher socioeconomic level school in our district in all testing areas ... We are always one of the top 5 schools in our state and blow away national averages. Our gaps between student subgroups are well below national averages and our close rate on these gaps has been accelerating over the last couple of years.

    For us, empowered cross-subject teaching teams and content teams has been a way of life and we love it.  Our administration facilitates this model by sitting in with our teams once a month and asking us, "What do you need?"  We also have 90 minute planning periods each day which allows us to have the time for team meetings and for more informally talking with each other for about 30 minutes every day. This allows us to really know what is going on with each of our kids on daily basis ... Sam's dad got arrested for DUI, again, he's having a rough day.  Sarah's mom is traveling on business all week -- need to call Nana to remind her to check Sarah's planner for homework. Paul's soccer team made it to the play-offs and he's not getting home until 10 from practice ... he may need afterschool tutoring, next week, so he doesn't get behind. Will's family is "moving to his aunts place" (who is going to make sure he has a granola bar and milk during 1st period reading enrichment?).  Anybody else noticing a real drop off in attention from Nathan, this week?  What's up?  Do we need to ask his parents in to meet with us ... wonder if he's off his meds ... who wants to make the call home?  Mitchell's shoes are falling apart and his coat is stuffed in his locker -- it looks to be too small -- let's see if the counselor can see him so he can visit "the closet." (We have our own Free Second Shop.  We started it when the Great Recession began, and it's a really terrific addition.  The clothes are all really nice, and we only have the "cool" kind of clothes so kids are actually really happy with them.  The PTSO, with help from 2 local 2nd hand shops, keep us well supplied).  Jacob smells and he shared that they had to sleep in the van, again.  Let's get him into 1st core exercise class 3 days a week, so he can shower regularly before school begins.  

    We also know that many of our students' families don't fill out the free and reduced forms, so our % is probably much higher.  So, we offer breakfast in our rooms for ALL students during our 1st core reading time.  I've worked out an agreement with our local grocery that they have ripe fruit ready for me to pick up each morning, and I get a bag of apples or a few bunches of bananas for just a couple bucks a day.  We also buy big bags of nutritious cereals that we mix with popcorn, and the kids help themselves to "bowls" coffee filters! of it to munch on as we read together.  And yes, we pay for this out of our own pockets, but once again, we do this as a team to ease the cost burden.

    Long post, but teams work for us and our students.  Is it a "magic bullet" that creates miracles?  No.  But it does work well for us and creates a very supportive work/ learning environment.  It also gives us a professional support network in what can be a very stressful work situation -- and less stressed out teachers are definitely a good thing for students, as well.  However, this kind of culture takes time to develop, and teaching teams need to be given the time to meet without having their entire planning time taken up for team meetings.  Teams also have to be empowered to act in an autonomous manner and the entire school has to be organized with team leaders getting some benefit for the extra work involved.  The administration also has to be skilled in team management and development, or you can end up with dysfunctional teams or teams in name only.  

    Thought you might to hear about a situation where teams are working and how we do it.  :)

    Plutocracy (noun) Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; 1) government by the wealthy; 2) 21st c. U.S.A.; 3) 22nd c. The World

    by bkamr on Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 03:53:20 AM PST

  •  Makes perfect sense. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BMarshall

    For all the reasons you state. Most people do not work as well in isolation. Hell, most people don't live well in isolation. We draw all kinds of positive benefits just being with each other, let alone comparing notes, solving problems, planning with each other.

    It can be overdone. We've all been in organizations that get into meeting traps, where everyone in the place spends more time preparing, participating in, and reading minutes and reports from meetings than attending to their individual job functions. But 10 or 20% of your time on these activities is perfectly reasonable and highly desirable in a well functioning organization.

    The "public sector" demon carefully crafted and nurtured by the right seems almost indomitable at this point, like the whole litany of right-wing myths. It takes a combination of guerilla tactics at the grassroots and critical mass efforts centered in our nation's capitals and in the Capitol over long periods of time to kill these destructive thought viruses. This is what makes the Occupy movement so critical at this time. With all its warts, it is still the best vehicle we have for demonstrating the possibilities of working together at the highest levels of collaboration, commitment, determination and personal sacrifice. It is exercising and demonstrating strength in numbers, a phrase that only tells half the story but connotes a key lesson nevertheless, which is both all we have and all we need to overcome the concentrated power behind these destructive memes. And which is why it behooves all of us to stick with both the cause and the movement, in spite of any misgivings, differences or setbacks we may have as individuals at any one point in time while we work out those kinks and maintain an ever-increasing pressure on the corrupt power structure working against us.

    Once we establish a more equitable and just society, and we must and we will, then dealing with a wide range of issues, including education, in ways that serve their purpose rather than self-serving desires of the 1%, become not only possible but probable.

  •  Working together works (0+ / 0-)

     I teach in a private high school, and we tend to have the standard model of each teacher doing his or her own thing in the classroom.  But I try to work with other teachers or at least know from the students what they're doing in other classes.  Here are some examples:
    1.  Students take a keyboarding class and learn the basics of word processing in their freshman year.  The problem is those lessons aren't reinforced, and too many, by the time they're juniors, have forgotten what it means to attach files or change file formats when submitting papers.
    2.  More to the content:  I have gotten vocabulary lists from students to see what words they're working on and they try to work them into the week's class discussions so they can hear the words being used in conversation, not just in a vocab. book.
    3.  I now teach Latin and have tried to work with the Church History teacher (Catholic school) to coordinate some lessons - Nero's persecution of Christians after the great fire in Church History and the historical sources in Latin (translation).

    Collaboration takes effort and planning, and unless everyone buys in, it doesn't work as well as it could.  But it certainly is the way to go.

  •  I'm lucky that I teach in a school where (0+ / 0-)

    collaboration is the norm. I teach 2nd grade and all the 2nd grade teachers meet in colleague collaboration meetings weekly.  We also combine classes, switch classes with each other and pool ideas and projects. We share strategies with each other, especially the ones that work. Teachers are comfortable walking in and out of each other's classrooms. We are equally comfortable with the principal.

    I teach in a small, rural town in Michigan. We have a unique configuration in our public school where we have 9 second grade classes and 9 third grade classes. We offer art, music and P.E. (twice a week) to students. We score very well on the state's standardized tests (M.E.A.P.)

    I'm all for teacher teams or collaboration, whatever you want to call it. It really does work. I love working with other teachers as opposed to being alone in my classroom. The students benefit from best practices and creativity of the teachers who continually strive to improve their teaching.

    Liberal (from Webster's Dictionary): tolerant of views differing from one's own; broad-minded

    by 50sbaby on Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 07:03:23 AM PST

  •  As a retired teacher (0+ / 0-)

    I agree with most of this.  There are, however truly outstanding individual teachers who make huge differences in the lives of kids in their classrooms.  (I have been lucky enough to be a student in some of these classrooms and have had colleagues who have these characteristics.)
        That being said, yes, it is a school-wide, shared-responsibility, shared-strategy approach that is most likely to succeed, and the extent to which that happened, I believe I saw our success increase.
         And, yes, leadership in the organization is important.

  •  Local schools reflect local culture. (0+ / 0-)

    Attitudes regarding the value of education comes from the families and neighborhoods where students originate. If any innovations occur in education, those innovations must resonate with the families of students, who must reinforce at home what the school is doing away from home.

    The feedback loops that reflect the value of education can originate anywhere, but they have to resonate with the local culture. Urban neighborhoods can adopt a high value for education when they expect, with evidence, that a high quality education can lead to a better life for the children.

    The Occupy Movement presents evidence that higher education in the US doesn't necessarily lead to a better life, as we see discouraged and disillusioned college graduates questioning, with clear economic evidence, the very foundations of our social contract.

    Our citizens and families must SEE evidence that education works before they'll buy into a realignment of education as a top priority in their daily lives. This is why a government stimulus program that rewards the hard work of students with meaningful employment is the path of least resistance to establishing a new and higher value on education for all of us.

    •  I disagree (0+ / 0-)

      I would argue that most families in urban neighborhoods place a very high value on education. The challenge is that this value does not mean that all parents know how to support their kids or have the means to do it. How does a single parent who works until midnight make sure that their child has help with homework or stays away from bad influences in the neighborhood? How does an adult who was not successful in school or never had the opportunity to finish school (I have many parents from other countries who weren't able to go beyond 3rd grade) help their child with homework, or even understand that they have the right to advocate for their child at school?

      When teachers and administrators collaborate to create a positive school environment these challenges can be overcome. After school programs can be used to support students in completing their homework. Parents can be taught how to support their children at home and how to advocate for their children by asking teachers appropriate questions. I've seen this work, and it's beautiful when it does.

  •  Outstanding diary. (0+ / 0-)

    The linked article is worth reading, at least skimming. If you work in education, read every word.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 09:18:59 AM PST

  •  The Open Classsroom (0+ / 0-)

    In the late 60's I was privileged to consult for an ESEA Research project on Individualized Instruction.
    I was to provide the design for a computerized management support system where a mini-computer was in the classroom.
    The school had combined 5 classrooms of 4, 5, and 6 graders into one large classroom by knocking down the wall and making one large teaching area.
    We had 5 teachers responsible for working as a team with each having 2 paid aides and numerous volunteers. There were usually 15 to 20 adults in the expanded classroom at all times.
    Where many thought there would be chaos, the opposite was true.  The kids were focused on their individual learning tasks and the staff was there to facilitate those activities.
    There were no grades  (A,B,C...) and no class divisions.  You either knew a learning objective or you were working on learning it.  And that objective was one step on a final goal of learning to read or doing mathematics at the equivalent 6th grade exit level.
    One result was that if you were already at the 6th grade level you didn't have to do exercises because that was this weeks class assignment.  In fact many of those who were early achievers became tutors to the lower level classmates.
    Whenever I would take visiting educators into the classroom I would tell them not to worry about disturbing the kids because they were too busy learning.  You could actually see, hear and feel learning going on.

    As with any change there were those who criticized.  Some parents were upset because "Johnny didn't get an A".  Teachers at the Middle School who got the students at 7th Grade were upset because the student were uppity and sometimes talked back when given assignments where they already knew the subject.  
    It turned out that teachers with 150 students in an open classroom had more control than one teacher with 30 students in a closed classroom

    So, what happened?  After 6 years of measured educational success the projects were scrapped.  The teachers killed it.  Not the teachers in the research classroom who had lived through the open classroom and loved it, but the teachers who had heard about it and thought it was too much extra work.  The management of the classroom became primary over the learning of the students.
    I became, and still am today, a believer in Individualized Instruction.

    "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve; if impeached, I will not leave" -Anon

    by Graebeard on Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 02:16:06 PM PST

  •  First of all, thanks for the diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BMarshall

    It's refreshing to read a diary about reform that doesn't bash the profession. Furthermore I am a firm believer in the collaborative approach. Nonetheless, I have a few concerns with the 90/90/90 studies.

    1) The 90/90/90 studies were considered flawed by many. According to the critics the researchers were not completely honest. One critic noted that students were not counted if they had high absentee rates. Shades of the "Houston Miracle". I don't know how valid the criticisms were but I haven't heard much about the 90/90/90 phenomenon since these criticisms arose.

    2) How do we define student achievement? Here in Michigan it is exclusively the once a year state-mandated tests. IMHO the focus on this narrow definition of student achievement has created what Ken Goodwin defines as the "pedagogy of the absurd".

    3) Again IMHO there is no single "best practice". The best practice is the one that works. It might be different from one teacher to the next. The one size fits all approach is not reforming education, but rather making it worse. The diarist suggested that there is no silver bullet. I agree.

    While I agree that a collaborative approach works well, it is not likely that we will see much of this in the near future. This approach would likely require an increase in funding. That is unlikely at the present.

    Again, thanks for the diary. Hopefully it will promote a good dialog. Perhaps, unlike most education diaries, it will make the rec list.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 05:02:21 PM PST

    •  For sure.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slatsg, BMarshall

      There is no single answer, no real silver bullet. That was a wee bit of hyperbole. 90/90/90 is a marketing gimmick. They did control for mobility.

      I guess my bottom line is that I believe 90/90/90 can happen, whether it has truly happened yet or not.

      I am sick and tired of the reformers being called reformers when they are supporting the same old paradigm of teachers working in competition on their students vs. the other fellas students.

      Thanks for reading.

      •  Our school has a poverty rate over 70% (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BMarshall

        Our cumulative reading and math scores on the state tests are in the 80s.

        I suppose we could get to the magic 90% level of I insisted that we focus strictly on the tests.

        I again agree with you regarding the whole business regarding competition between students and schools. I want our students to do well and I want students in the surrounding schools to also do well. I certainly don't want their kids to fail so that we look good. That's just idiotic, but that seems to be where we are today with Duncan and the rest of them.

        A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

        by slatsg on Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 05:59:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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