Saturday, January 31, 2009

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!

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