Title 2.0

Important new policy brief from CAP on Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  That’s the section governing teacher quality programs.   Builds on some of the issues raised in this ES policy brief (pdf) that I penned last year:  Namely professional development is important and can be effective but federal programs do little to foster that today and Title II (about $3 billion) needs a pretty dramatic overhaul.   Implications for this class size debate and also the ongoing debate in the Senate over the Teacher Incentive Fund.

3 Replies to “Title 2.0”

  1. Having provided professional development for almost 15 years, I notice that it doesn’t work for two reasons: teachers don’t use it and principals don’t make them.

    The training itself may be valuable. But teachers rarely apply it in their teaching. And I have known only one principal (out of about 200) who has ever asked her staff to actually use the training they received. This principal’s school made the largest gains of any school in her state that year.

    Interestingly, a few years later, I checked in with the same principal who admitted the her teachers were no longer using the training I had provided. And, most importantly, she no longer felt like telling them to use it. She didn’t really have a rationale for this change in her behavior. She just felt that it was a lot to ask of teachers who obviously hadn’t participated very fully in the original training.

    So, in my experience, it’s simply lack of implementation that causes most professional development to fail. And the responsibility for that lack of implementation rests with the principal. In the district where I currently live, teachers are allowed to even ignore the adopted curriculum. And, once again, principals do not feel like asking them to use it.

    A question I often ask new clients is, “Who is responsible for making sure the training is applied?” The answer is always “Nobody”. Always. There has never been another answer. Even when a school has multiple instructional coaches, nobody is in charge of how teachers teach.

    This is a major problem that few people talk about. And it can’t really be solved by structural changes like more tests, tougher standards, or even merit pay. This lack of responsibility for how teachers teach is deeply rooted in education culture. Obviously, the responsibility falls with the principal. But principals don’t feel comfortable managing and monitoring their teachers.

    The gulf between what we know about good teaching and what actually gets used in the classroom grows every year. If teachers don’t use new practice, and nobody makes them, the profession doesn’t really advance.

    I think this issue deserves much wider coverage than it receives. To me, it lies at the heart of the problems we have with teacher quality and low student achievement.

  2. People, teachers included, are creatures of habit. It’s natural to fall back to your old ways unless there is someone there reminding you of things that you need to work on, experiment with, etc. This is what good management is all about — supporting the people who work for you and enabling them to do their best job — occasionally by being critical, but always by trying to get the best out of each individual. Many principals are overworked pushing paper or attending meetings to be spending time in the classroom — helping, providing feedback, and being generally aware of the work of their teachers. SOMEONE need to fill this role – it doesn’t have to be the principal, but it has to be someone that the teachers respect and answer to.

    We had a student teacher come in to a band class that was generally unruly. The student teacher actually had expectations for the students. The next band concert was, shall we say, musical — a departure. The regular teacher tried to keep a higher level of expectation for the class, but there was nobody there forcing the issue, so it only lasted some weeks. Too bad for the students.

  3. Steve, do you think part of the “problem” of teachers not following the PD training is that they are professionals who are able to make judgment calls on what will and will not work in their classrooms?

    In reality, every year, teachers are called on to make some fundamental change to the way they teach, or to the way their classroom operates. After having been part of the cycle for even a few years, teachers recognise that whatever changes they make this go-around will be superseded by next year’s “Big Thing™”.

    Some teachers will opt out of every change, doing whatever they are most comfortable. Most will evaluate every new training set as it comes and decide whether or not it will be a positive change in their classroom.

    The worst possible thing that could happen is for every new PD program to be foisted on every teacher, with no thought, as if teachers were simply computers waiting for some new improved programming to operate more efficiently.

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