I am in the beginnings of reading a book for my Admin PD, FOCUS: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve the Student Learning by Mike Schmoker and the first chapter has already got me thinking. Schmoker (2011) states there are three elements that are necessary to truly increase student achievement: What we Teach, How we Teach, and Authentic Literacy. I would like to address the first element: What we Teach. The most recent staff meeting that introduced our new lesson plan format was ugly. The staff has a lot on their plate and this just added a bit more to it. We are trying to focus on a few key points necessary for quality lesson planning.
So the first chapter in this book reiterates what we are trying to “convince” our teachers of, I use the word convince, because to “not teach all of the standards” goes against everything we have learned in the past as educators. I consider the “brainwashing” by the “MEAP Police” responsible for the reason teachers like to “cover” material rather than teach for mastery. We still feel we have to teach all of the GLCEs, (standards) which I am quite sure we all know is impossible. Many of us do not have the confidence in ourselves to define essential or power standards. We have spent many hours as a district trying to define what an essential outcome is, but when I hear a teacher say that they reduced the proficiency level of a student because they knew they really weren’t proficient, scares me. Do we not trust ourselves in creating an assessment to determine proficiency? Who should create these assessments?
I know Marzano says that if we were to teach every standard K-12 we would teach our kids through grade 22 or 25, my memory escapes me…anyway, my teachers still feel responsible for teaching every GLCE there is, which leads to “coverage,” a word that I would love to ban in my school. In an era of power standards, essential skills, and common assessments what happens if we don’t feel comfortable determining or designing any of those? With no direction from our district, who guides us? What happens when we are evaluated on teacher-designed student performance assessments when we don’t feel confident in developing those assessments? Will our salary really rely on that?
Our district has engaged in numerous opportunities for teachers to design curriculum, even though the fidelity and follow through is lacking, we continue to put together pacing guides and curriculum documents. Still we have teachers who are unaware of the previous year’s teaching as well as the post, well, check that, what is a pacing guide, the list of chapters in a textbook? Curriculum is not the state standards or the table of contents of a textbook, yet that is all many of us still see.