Sunday, February 22, 2009

Still yammering......

About Professional Development.
Today's (February 22) Sunday Outlook section in the Washington Post inspired a response.
Two articles seem to be at war with each other.  One ("5 Myths About Schools That Just Can't Be Fixed."*) claims that teachers AREN'T the answer to reform because they resist further training.
The other, a review of Jay Matthew's book Work Hard, Be Nice  celebrates how two TEACHERS caused real reform in the form of KIPP schools. That seems to refute Kalman R. Hettleman's claim in the 5 Myths article that teachers can't be part of reform, don't 'cha think?
The answer lies between the two.  Give teachers time to work on their own initiatives and you'll get an explosion of reform that looks different for every localized problem and that meets community needs.  And maybe even individualizes instruction for kids.
*Can't find this one online.


  1. Wish I could access that article. There's a lot of blah-blah out there about teachers, supported by personal impressions, things that everybody "knows," stories heard at the supermarket. In an earlier era, we might have called them old wives' tales, based on a kernel of truth and a lot of...blah-blah.

    Do teachers resist professional learning? They certainly resist time-wasting, one-size-fits-all, here-today-gone-next-year programs. That doesn't mean they're not working, individually or in small groups, on improving instruction for demonstrable results. It means they're cynical. Cynical can be good.

    I've been "professionally developed" in workshops that resembled staff meetings on "The Office." And I've had conversations at lunch with smart, creative colleagues who changed the way I taught that very afternoon, and forever after.

    I'm not certain that anybody who not a teacher would understand that distinction.

  2. Nancy, Thanks for checking in!
    That 5 Myths wasn't online that I could find. But here are the myths according to Hettleman, a former commissioner of the Baltimore City school board:
    1. We know how to fix public schools; we just lack the political will to finish the job. (See number two for why this isn't a myth.)
    2. Teachers know best how to teach kids; policymakers should leave them alone. (My view - policymakers should support teacher work, not undermine it.)
    3. The federal government meddles to much in the affairs of local schools. (Sometimes yes - NCLB. Sometimes no- Title I and Title IX)
    4. Teacher unions are the enemy(!) (Given some of the above this one is a surprise.)
    5. There's no place in education for politics. Cites Bloomberg and Fenty as pro-active mayors who wrested control of schools with good results (?) To be determined in both cases, I think.

  3. Hey, y'all -

    This calls to mind Diane Ravitch's recent contribution to the Bridging Differences blog, which I happened to read this morning. The title pretty well captures the message: "Why Are People So Gullible about Miracle Cures in Education?"