26 February 2006
Put a Cork in It
My district used to pride itself on the fact that schools could do their own things. Want a different bell schedule? No problem. A day each week where you could start late or end early in order to give teachers some common planning time? Done deal. Develop a special program? Go for it.
In some ways, this sounds positively Utopic. There was so much freedom. The problem was that there was no accountability---either for explaining why implementing something new would support student learning nor any evidence supplied to show whether or not a particular program was effective. Meanwhile, there developed a bit of sibling rivalry between the various buildings. "How come they get to do that? Why is the district giving them money?" Throw in the standards-based reform movement and you've got a mess on your hands.
Slowly, but surely, district programs are being implemented. The weird thing about all of this is simply that teachers have to be sold on certain ideas...there's a lot of talk about "buy-in." I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but in what other profession or career area does this have to happen? If I was working in a office environment and my boss said that we were going to start a new program for our customers, what would happen if I said, "No"? Could I flip burgers at Mickey D's and have any system for doing my job that I wanted? Why do educators have to be cajoled and get to do as they please, especially if they don't agree with their bosses?
This is also happening at a school level. One of our junior high schools made a decision to offer an "advanced" class to 7th graders this year---and use the 10th grade book. The other schools want to know if they can do that next year. Of course, they can't, and it's going to be darned hard to make the first school understand that they have to stop.
Anyway, the genie of teacher choice is out of the bottle here...and it's darned difficult to get put back in.