21 August 2005

Ambitious Thoughts

I've been doing some reading in the last couple of weeks. I had five new education-related books come my way and most of them are pretty good. In fact, one is just plain outstanding. It is "From Standards to Success" by Mark O'Shea. And if you're a teacher, administrator, curriculum specialist, or kin to those, you should see about getting your hands on a copy.

This book is the first one I've run across that has a no-nonsense plan for integrating the standards into the classroom. There are plenty of resources out there that tell you the standards are important and that using them is necessary for student achievement---but until now, I haven't seen one that tells you how to take those words and translate them into something practical.

One of the suggestions I like is to use Pacing Guides with the curricula. Basically, for each course, the standards are identified and then sequenced. The teachers then have this document that tells them what they should be working on with students and when. (The "how" is still up to the teacher.) This also allows for various "benchmark tests" throughout the year to see how students are progressing toward proficiency with the standards. For those of us in science who are only scheduled to get two sets of data in this regard before students take the 10th grade asessment, having our own benchmark exams could be extremely helpful.

Can I sell this idea to my colleagues? I'm not sure. It could be quite the fight if teachers think that Pacing Guides will mean that they are all lockstepped into teaching things the same way on the same date...which is not what the intention is at all. I'll bring it up at our meeting in another week and we'll see how many rocks get hurled in my direction.

My school district is willing to put its money where its mouth is. The two schools that currently have inadequate facilities for science are going to get remodeled next summer. (just the science areas---not the whole buildings) We are also going to be hiring more science teachers because full-year science will become a reality at all junior highs for all grade levels. My Boss Lady has allotted over $100,000 to spend on new materials for science. And more money is set aside for teachers to collaborate.

What are our teachers willing to do? This is no insult to the hard work that they have already taken on...or to suggest that they're slackers. But I know that I get "territorial" about what happens in my classroom. Are they willing to set aside some of their more personal projects to build a common plan? Can they shift their thinking to view the future from the perspective of their students? I'm hopeful that we can find a way to do that---and all without any teacher feeling that their individuality has been lost in the shuffle.

It's going to be a very big year for science in the district. Better fasten my seatbelt.

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