Today, on the Answer Sheet at the Washington Post, Anthony Cody was a guest blogger. As he makes his compelling case for teachers to raise their voices, he referenced and linked to letters written by members of Teachers Letters to Obama that call for change in current educational policy trends. Mine is there, one of many; I'm pasting the letter here also. As the conversations and the rhetoric gears up, remember our children.
Dear Mr. President, Secretary Duncan and members of Congress,
As a National Board certified teacher, a former classroom teacher of over 35 years, and a current teacher leader in a number of online communities of practice, I strongly encourage you to seriously consider an alternative direction as you address the issue of improving teacher practice to support student learning. The current trend of using test scores to evaluate teacher practice and improve instruction, in my opinion, is divisive, counterproductive, competitive and unsubstantiated by research.
There are many and varied studies indicating that teachers --who collaborate around their practice, who share a deep commitment to understanding learning and improving practice in communities, who develop collegial relationships and dispositions, who engage in difficult and meaningful conversations around learning, who take risks in implementing new strategies to improve learning, who continuously reflect on those changes and as a community develop a sense of collective efficacy-- will develop a knowledge of practice that leads to systemic change and better learning for all students.
In Finland, for example, teachers are provided weekly time to collaborate around questions of learning, they collaboratively develop curriculum from a lean set of national standards that meets the needs of their students. They work collectively to improve teaching practice and the country has seen positive systemic changes in instruction and learning for students.
I have had the privilege to participate as a leader and co learner in a number of online communities of practice and witness firsthand the power of teacher collaboration in improving learning. I urge you to open conversations with teachers and researchers around this topic and to support and implement policies for teacher collaboration that can lead to transformation in instruction and greater learning for all students.