17 June 2012

Wave Your Wand

Suppose you were magically transported to a rural school district with a total enrollment of ~350 students (K - 12). (If you already work in a district like this, get ready...company is coming.) Your new district has been getting by on whatever allowance the state or feds send their way. There are too few voters and property owners to make a levy worthwhile. You find that a lot of the things you have been using in your former classroom are no longer available. However, the district can choose one thing off the list below. Which one do you think would have the greatest positive impact on student learning? Think beyond testing here to encompass all the forms learning can take, then answer the one question poll at the bottom of this post.

Here is some additional background for the choices you see:
  • Instructional Materials: Some of the smaller districts in our state are using math texts from the 1960's (or have no math curriculum at all) because they can't afford to update. Science labs are woefully outfitted (microscopes are older than math books). Assuming you have computers for students to access, software options are limited. There are schools in this state running Windows Millennium. Are current instructional materials the most critical item for student learning?
  • Technological Hardware: Do you have a projector, document camera, and/or whiteboard in your room? Do students have frequent and regular access to computers/mobile devices? Most classrooms in the state have at least one computer, a document camera, and projector. Is this enough?
  • Common Curriculum Map and Assessments: Most small districts do not have the capacity to develop common planning and assessment tools. Not only do teachers have multiple preps each day (and for multiple age groups), but the small student populations mean that sharing the planning or co-teaching is not possible. If someone handed you a roadmap that you could count on to free up your time for other pieces of instruction, would you want that?
  • Instructional Coach: Your opportunities for professional development in a small district are significantly reduced. Your principal might be the instructional leader for the school, but chances are that your principal is also the superintendent, another teacher, or has a host of other duties. What if you had someone designated to support you in the form of an instructional coach---help with planning, provide additional resources, engage in reflective conversations?
  • Outside PD (conferences, workshops...): Do you think you're going to be able to connect with peers at various conferences and workshops? Where will you find a sub? What about all the travel and registration costs? If conferences and workshops are critical to keeping you current with instructional strategies and other components of student learning, you'll have a sad in a small district.
Many other things can affect student learning: the physical plant (some of our schools are in a significant state of disrepair), quality of administration, community/parent support. I don't want to dismiss the importance of those...or the connection between all of the pieces that play a role in student learning. But this survey is just about you the teacher. What's your pleasure?

Use the poll below to cast your vote:


Matt Townsley said...

Here was my thought process:

Instructional materials - not as relevant for math. Problem sets and pacing suggestions can be created/gathered online, so this was not my top choice.

Technological hardware - difficult to vote this one off the island, but I am banking on a few grants to beef up the repertoire in the future.

Instructional coach - The reflective conversations part of this description was difficult to turn down. I have never personally had an IC, so it was challenging to think about how this would be beneficial. Voted off the island because of the unknown, not because of its lack of potential.

Outside PD - Twitter, blogs, recordings, etc. make this one seem somewhat irrelevant. Connecting with people face-to-face is what would be missed here, from my perspective, not necessarily the content.

So...I selected common curriculum map & assessments. I couldn't figure out how to re-create this one without the assistance of the people within the local school district.

Will you post the results in a few weeks/

The Science Goddess said...

Will definitely post the results...and the grain(s) of salt associated with them. I can't limit the number of times someone votes...anyone can take the poll (even non-educators)...and people who read blogs may be interested in something in particular, simply because they engage with this format. Results are intriguing so far.

Thanks for sharing your thought process. Will be very helpful for some future events. (More revealed later...) :)

Jenny said...

This was an interesting thought exercise and a slightly painful one. I am counting my blessings for all of the resources I have available to me.