Saturday, January 31, 2009

Simple ideas that work

A good restructuring requires many changes. No one change is going to be the magic bullet. As an example, one idea suggested in the book, Whatever It Takes by Dufour, Dufour and Eaker, is to require every student to participate in an extra curricular activity. Impossible in an urban school where students work or take care of families after school, and teachers can't be contractually obigated to supervise that many extracurricular activities.
In schools that work, and districts that work, the impossible is made possible. It takes coperation between teachers, unions, and the schol district. Research shows, difnitively, tht students involved in their schools beyond the schol day have better attendance, and feel more invested in their schools.
In our school, we could devote Tuesdays for one hour after school to extracurricular activties. This could be done instead of having staff meetings on Tuesday. So, the teachers union would compromise by agreeing to an extra hour of student supervision each Tuesday, and in return we wouldn't have any after school meetings. In the book, they had one full day a month be devoted to a students extra-curricular, so students who absolutely could not come for one hour on a Tuesday could still participate in the big monthly extra-curricular day.

Not a perfect plan, and it wouldn't solve everything, but it is backed by research and shown to work. As I read more, I will have more ideas.

We already are the change our students need

When we were told of our restructuring, we were told that, "Everything being done to you is for the good of the students." The implication was to just sit back and take whatever comes if we really cared about the kids. I agreed with this in principle. Our students need all the love and support they can get. The truth is, we need to improve the learning outcomes at our school. The district could send me to Siberia, if they could show it would improve student learning. There-in lies the problem.
Whenever a teacher wants to try something new, we are asked how it will improve student learning, and what is the data and research to back that up. Everything we do at Arlington is backed by research of what works in schools. Two years before this restructuring, we began our own restructuring because we wanted better for our students.
All of our efforts at changing the culture and climate of our school have been guided by the pre-eminent research on "data driven decision" making by. All of our efforts on creating professional learning committees have been guided by the research and writings of Dufour, Dufour and Eaker. These researches are the formost leaders in the field of school restructuring. It is also no coincidence that these are the district endorsed researchers.
The travesty of this whole process is that we have already laid the foundation for what works. Building strong PLC's and a positive school culture do not happen overnight. Now the district wants to upend all of that work that we pro-actively started two years ago.
When it comes to restructuring schools, there are known things that work. The is no research or data backing up what the district is doing. In fact, the research clear states, in the book "Whatever it Takes", that the most effective restructurings are done with teachers, the unions, and the district in collaboration.
Arlington's efforts at restructuring are backed by quality research on what works to improve student learning. I fear what the district is doing will harm student learning. What they are doing contradicts their own endorsed researchers.
The hardest part of restructuring is creating trusting professionals who work together in professional learning communities. The district wants to start that work all over, possibly with teachers who have no realtionships with each other or the students. At Arlington, we have begun and suceeded in the hardest part of restructuring. The students deserve better than to start that process over. Do what works for kids, that is all I ask!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Weekly Newsletter #1

Our first weekly newsletter about the restructuring process is now online. Click on this link to view the newsletter:

Thursday, January 29, 2009


This is the official Saint Paul Federation of Teachers blog for Arlington and Humboldt staff. The purpose of this blog is to allow educators to communicate about the district's restructuring process.

Posters are reminded to keep their posts and comments civil and constructive. I will moderate the blog and reserve the right to remove any posts or comments.

If you have questions, please email me at or call me at (651) 222-7303.


Paul Rohlfing
SPFT Business Agent