Yesterday’s (5/8/14) report, by Kimberly Hefling of the Associated Press, under the headline: “Nation’s students not improving: Exam finds no gains in seniors’ critical skills since ’09,” is certain to renew exclamations that our teachers are failing America’s children.
However absurd such proclamations may be, it is time for teachers, working collectively and with their communities, to take the lead in advocating substantial reforms of the educational process. If teachers permit educational reforms to remain exclusively in the hands of the government and corporate reformers, they are putting America’s children at risk and are leaving the teaching profession unprotected.
It is not sufficient to take a defensive posture and cry out against such reformers. What is needed are proactive proposals that the entire teaching profession can support with all of its political influence and might at the local, state, and federal level.
The reforms themselves must be substantial and they must literally reinvent the American educational process so that it:
• Is focused on success in real and substantive ways that allows teachers to teach children how to be successful;
• Shifts the focus back to subject mastery rather than test preparation, using the NAEP definition of “proficient” as a model where the expectation is to help students acquire the ability to apply what they learn to real-life situations;
• Puts teachers in a position to teach in an intimate environment in which they can form close, nurturing relationships with both students and parents;
• Help children experience the fun of learning under the tutelage of a “favorite teacher” rather than deal with the stress of looming annual, standardized exams;
• Integrate student assessment and teacher accountability into the instructional process, much like industry has done with quality systems, obviating the need for annual standardized examinations to demonstrate competency;
• Provides teachers with state-of-the-art technology and other tools to facilitate rather than obstruct what they do, where the technology is as seamless and productive as the smartphones most of us carry in our pockets and purses; and,
• Begins the challenging process of re-establishing the highest possible level of trust between parents and their children’s teachers.
Teachers must also use their collective might to aggressively pursue grants for creative programs that engage parents as partners in the education of their children (I encourage teachers to count the number of such programs of which they are currently aware).
I offer my book, Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream, as a model for implementation at the local level in schools and communities all over the nation. It is a model that can also serve as catalyst for brainstorming or as a springboard for the development of other models.
In any case, it is time for teachers to act before their credibility is completely tainted and their social capital squandered.