Involving Teachers in School Transformation

At Kenmore Middle School to hear President Obama are Hope Street Group Education Director Alice Johnson Cain and members Dina Rock, Darcy Moody, Lisa Mills, Sam Row, and Doug Clark

Ed note: Throughout the month of March, President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary Duncan highlighted the importance of investing in education to win the future. On March 14, the President spoke at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Va., about the importance of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—commonly referred to currently as No Child Left Behind—in a way that is fair, flexible and focused.

Below, one teacher in the audience at Kenmore, Dina Rock of Solon, Ohio, shares her thoughts on the Obama administration’s Blueprint for Reform.

President Obama inspired me as I listened to him speak at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Va., a couple of weeks ago.  The President affirmed that No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB)—goals to help all students to learn are right.  “It’s the strategies,” he said, that took a wrong turn.  That resonated with me because I have long felt that NCLB had great intentions, but that the law’s unintended consequences have derailed its original goals.

As President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan spoke of the need to have effective teachers in the classroom, I found myself nodding in agreement and thinking that we must move toward having thoughtful and sound evaluations for teachers, not just ones based on test scores, but evaluations that take other variables into consideration.

There is a myth that teachers don’t want change and accountability.  Actually, we welcome it.   As a teacher in my 23rd year, who still loves to teach, I can tell you that many teachers are reform-minded.  We long for change.  Perhaps part of our problem is that we’ve been down the reform road before.  Our classrooms are filled with binders stuffed with the latest greatest “philosophy” of the month, all with the intention of transforming education, but rarely is there any follow through.

I suppose I would be thoroughly jaded by now, if it weren’t for the game-changing work I’ve done with the nonprofit Hope Street Group over the past two years.  Together, teacher leaders from around the country have collaborated for months to create a set of eight thoughtful and important recommendations for teacher evaluation systems.  Being involved with other teachers in this process of reform, rather than having it imposed on me, has made a tremendous difference.  I am hopeful that teacher groups like Hope Street can begin to look at the real issues and strengthen teaching so that it becomes a revered, iconic profession.

As long as the President and Arne Duncan are transforming education with teachers, instead of doing it to us, I am in.  All in.

Dina Rock teaches 5th and 6th Grade at Agnon Elementary School in Beachwood, Ohio.

12 Comments

  1. I think it is great that teachers are open to accountability. It can only benefit our children who will gain in that they have teachers who care and can teach.

  2. I certainly agree with the value of education. We need to give our children a chance to shine. If we do it will be better for us and ensure a better tomorrow for all of us. So I think this is great. Imagine going from the stroller to the classroom and knowing you have a chance to succeed. That is a great thing.

  3. I am fortunate or cursed enough to work in education but not be a teacher. As a school social worker I see a LOT of talented teachers work really hard to make a bad system work. In the same vein a see a lot of bitter and cynical teachers work really hard to tear down those who choose to innovate and be forward thinking. Unfortunately, the loud cynics hit the press and tarnish the whole profession. I find that alarming. Equally as much, I am disturbed how our federal government fails to see how they contribute to barriers in education through consistently inconsistent funding mechanisms. A grant here, a pot of money there, and then a new administration steps in only to churn the sludge of frustration some more. Fund education like you mean it. Fund it seriously because we have no time left to play catch-up with our Chinese and European counterparts. While my child comes home with crossword puzzles and word searches as “homework,” his European counterpart just picked up another language. There is no time left. Our cynical teachers are those who were once passionate but have been disappointed too many times. Enough with the finger pointing and let’s get down to business. Like it or not, our national security depends on education. I for one wouldn’t want the kid that mastered the crosswords to try and address foreign policy in the future. Would you?

  4. I too believe there needs to be reform in education. Too many changes or partial changes only confuse educators, parents, and those who truly want success in American schools. Let’s get back to basics and teach our students the way Educators did in the one room school house. Students learned, parents supported the teachers and reading, writing and arithmetic were the focus of educators. The Bible was used to even help these kids learn to read. We’ve got to get our educational system working again for our children not our government. Anyone can have a 4.0. But can they truly teach? To those who love to teach ,teach! Let’s make American schools Public or Private a blueprint for other countries. Maybe it’s time to let the classroom teachers set the policies and guidelines for American schools. We are the ones that work with these students every day. Like I said, ” Let the teachers teach”.

  5. As an educator for the past 14 years, many changes have taken place in education. NCLB being one of many changes; Reform in education is greatly needed, but I too believe it should be done with teachers and not for teachers. I serve as a Math Coach in one of Metro Atlanta’s suburbs in Henry County and since I have been out of the classroom I have realized that politicans, school boards, and teachers etc are not on the same page. I do not believe that test scores alone should prove acceptable and unacceptable teaching. Many factors are involved and standardized test scores really do not prove anything but multiple guess for the most part. It is time to raise higher standards and more accountability for teachers and students. Another change that seems to be aiding in this task is Common Core Standards. It is about time that we as a nation come together and speak the same language in education.

    It guess I say all of this to say that educators should be the top paid in our nation because we assist in the development of our future doctors, lawyers, engineers, and yes even politians. The one thing that I see holding this back is how teachers are viewed and how some teachers view themselves. We want to be acknowledge for the hard work that we do, but some are still teaching as if time has stood still, or not dressing the part. We are professionals, so let us stand up and be the professionals that we are and “each one reach one”. Our nation needs qualified, caring, determined, open-minded teaching professionals that lead our present students into their future.

  6. I am a middle school teacher. I am having a difficult year, Last year, I had two students not to pass the standardized tests in the areas that I teach Reading and Language Arts. This two, one caucasian male, and the other caucasian female.It is hard to teach those students who do not come to school.When you do not make AYP because of four black males and your principal tells you to not punish them the same, and treat them differently, I have a huge problem with this. I do not care what color you are, everyone deserves equal treatment. I feel we are going backwards in racial equality.
    The law makers at Captial Hill are forgetting one important element in all of this education analysis. They are forgetting one of the biggest impacts on these students’ lives–their parents. I was afraid to bring home a grade lower than an A. My students do not care. I knew that I had to go to school. My parents had to go to work. I did not come from a “wonderful” middle class home. I grew up with many obstacles in my way, my own father was in and out of prison. My mother was a single mom. I grew up with a strong Christian faith, and knowing that life could be better for me. I did not have to sell drugs or marry a man who beat me in order to make ends meet,
    Like Robert Frost said, I “Chose the path less taken”. It worked out for me. My mom and my grandparents were my driving force,

  7. It is obvious that change is needed and schools are filled with intelligent, caring, and motivated teachers. Somewhere along the line the education process changed into a system built for failure. Teachers are told to teach, but are not funded. Teachers are told to teach but cannot, because of the disruptive student who has rights verses all of the ones who care to learn and grow. Teachers are told to teach, but they are yelled at by some parents who are upset by their child’s failing grades instead of addressing the child. Teachers are told to teach, but are not respected as a professional and media bashed. Give us a system in which we are enabled not disabled! Let me teach enriching the lives of students that walk through my door and be allowed to succeed.

  8. I am very middle of the road politically, possibly slightly leaning left, but I feel exactly the way this article started. NCLB had good intentions, but going into it you could tell that variables such as socio-economic, cultural, and disability status were certainly not considered. What needs to happen is we need to get off this idea that we can only teach one thing at a time. Why can’t we teach education AND values at the same time? Why can’t we use service based learning and proficiency based promotion in our schools to encourage high levels of academic and social performance? I have found that many teachers ARE open to THE RIGHT change, but are cautious of change just for the sake of change. Maybe I’m still in the “honeymoon” phase of my educational career, but I am also actively participating in the vision planning for the school I work at. If you refuse to be part of the change, then don’t complain when it changes without your input. If you are part of the change, then GOOD JOB!

  9. There is no doubt the system is broken and the fix needs to come from many different angles. I still believe that education, left to its simplest form, in the hands of the passionate and creative teacher (before the system strips them of these qualities or lays them off because they are not tenured) would prevail. Give any great teacher/educator a group of students and put them in the middle of the woods without any resources besides that which they are surrounded by and my bet is that this class will score as good as any other on their “tests”. The system is too big and too complicated. It is too far removed from teaching and learning at its simplest form – caring, passion and creativity. Perhaps starting with how to make things simple with a focus on allowing great teachers the maximum time to teach is an idea that can be expanded on. Our educators and kids have the answers. We (leaders, teachers, unions, politicians, community members and parents) need to listen and act. Great companies to work for that out pace their competition flip the hierarchy funnel, leading and managing from the bottom-up (customers-employees first). Maybe it is time that education does the same.

  10. The media has stated that gifted students were being “neglected.” I’ve got news for all of you. All across the country., teachers, substitutes, teacher applicants AND students are ALL being “neglected.” The most neglected of all are people with mathematics and science backgrounds who think for themselves and do not join consortia, societies, associations or other politically driven groups of egotistical and arrogant phonies. That is the main reason why the U.S. is behind most countries in mathematics and the sciences. If we do not let good teachers teach in spite of state departments of education, Praxis and politically driven school districts, we will all be failures and losers. The nation will continue to slide down the drain.

    We need to identify the people with brains in each of our nation’s communities and work with THEM to make things happen. Rather than top-down direction from universities and arrogant elites with agendas that are egotistical and self-centered, we need to identify real talent in all of our towns, find out what THEY want and give it to THEM.

  11. I am a teacher who is not “reform-minded” and doesn’t “welcome change”. I’ve enough of the teacher training sessions which take time away from teaching. I think our ancestors from 100 years ago were much better educated than our students are today. Something has gone extremely wrong with our current education system. We are no longer teaching the academics but rather we are teaching values…but whole values?

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