Gary R. Carlson, consultant and advocate
I just finished listening to the U.S. Department of Education Secretary John King. The conference call was to update us on the new regulations focused on states and the highlights of the purpose and mission of the new regulations. Highlights of the presentation by Secretary King was attention to civil rights mentioned five times during the conference call, more state leeway in determine their actions, better attention to student absenteeism, seeking feedback with approval and time for transition. Again, standards of performance as relating to grades and success with course work. The new regulations are attempting to provide equity.
While applauding the attempt to provide equity, what has really changed? We are still looking at grades as success with standards set to satisfy our ratings of schools. Standards are set to establish what should be and zeroing in on the schools who reach the standards and those that don’t. We as Americans have enough examples of how to improve outcomes. When we exploit the word diversity we punish diversity with standards that are created for less than equity opportunity. No matter where we start outcomes,a baseline and grows from an equitable start. If you are a new weight lifter you don’t start with the expected weight but you begin with light weights and move forward. If you are a musician you don’t write music immediately but you learn the notes. Predetermined standards may be the reason for reported failure because of the lack of encouragement for appreciable growth.
Standards vs. Performance Improvement
Standards may be an expectation but current performance is a reality. Improvement in outcomes from taking an individual where they are and improving them. Ask ourselves how or what were the percentages of improvement a school or program achieves over a period of time. Every teacher knows that with each new class of students they are presented with a new set of baselines. Our question now is not standards but what are the targets for improvement for each student. What process is there or could be to establish this outcome improvement? When it comes to measuring performance we measure the grades of the students. When we own an automobile it goes no where without fuel. Students go no where without high performing teachers. So without a process to improve teacher performance we will continue in this ever enduring result of measuring grades for outcome measures.
Current events place our teachers in often precarious positions. Answers for improving student outcomes comes from understanding the formula for our teachers success. It is more than an assumption or expectation of their accomplishments. Our teachers are human capital that we invest in for providing necessary education to prepare them for life experiences. It is not hard to place standards on teachers communicated in a regulatory junction when the best performance measurement is by measuring improvement in meaningful outcomes in skills and performance levels. Security of any nation is the ability to make sure its population is offered the path to meet their highest potential. A philosophy with keeping in the process of taking individuals at a baseline and moving them to higher potentials works for schools, organizations and businesses. Where do we go from here? What would help our teachers?
- Lines of authority that allows them to fulfil their accountability without hinderance
- Full support from school boards and educational management
- Funding equitable to the needs of each school no matter where it resides demographically
- Identifying the master teachers who provide the recognizable growth of students from their existing baseline to higher achievements.
- Recognizing teacher needs and providing professional development training by using master teachers in the outline to improve new teachers and those in need
- Design an equitable performance measure to recognize those teachers who achieve performance improvements above and beyond the expectations of averages.
- Partnerships with master teachers and teacher training institutions
- Change federal and state over-site to a better support for schools.
- Encourage teachers to share best practices in a nation wide portal.
- Determine what competencies we are asking teachers to achieve at what levels
- Establish transition lines between pre-school,elementary,secondary and higher education.
- Accreditation requirements become uniform and equitable for all accrediting agencies.
- Introduce curriculum design that better fits our society values of learning purpose
- Create a better two-way communication with federal and state department officials for support initiatives.
- Create longterm plan to encourage teachers to remain in the profession of teaching with the correct motivational tools.
Outcomes are important. Outcomes can be the measure of success or not! Obviously we are about success. If we are clear about what we need in targets in meeting skill levels in any course or program we can move performance to higher levels. Outcomes can be the symptoms of what is necessary and needed in further encouragement and training. Actions of performance improvement assistance resonates better schools. Our answer lies in the practice of a cyclical performance management system that is non-threating and supports improvement.
Department of Education at State and Federal Level
As a leader what relationship do you have with the Deparatment of Edcucation is it supportive or adversary? What works best? Government organizations are needed to serve and to help improve through their support. How do you feel that is happening? Are the fiscal ties strangling your ability to do your job? Does the help come with strings attached? After answering these questions you probably know we have a job to do.
Happy New Year!