Collaboration Requires Trust: Will the Department Support Parents, Teachers and Supervisors at the School Level to Create Learning Organizations?

Teaching is a strange lonely job, the only adult in a room full of children or teenagers day after day. The adults, the teachers, rarely interact for more than a few minutes a day.  Out of classroom time is restricted to job-related tasks, paperwork, a bathroom break and maybe a quick lunch. A supervisor observes classes a few times a  year and writes a critique, a few commendations and recommendations. The Widget Effect Report  is highly critical of the current teacher evaluation system,
Effective teachers are the key to student success. Yet our school systems treat all teachers as interchangeable parts, not professionals. Excellence goes unrecognized and poor performance goes unaddressed. This indifference to performance disrespects teachers and gambles with students’ lives.
No matter how uncomfortable it make teachers it is slowly becoming possible to incorporate a number of variables and to some extent place a value on a teacher’s performance.
In our data-driven world virtually everything can be reduced to a statistical regression analysis,
The goal of regression analysis is to obtain estimates of the unknown parameters …. which indicate how a change in one of the independent variables affects the values taken by the dependent variable. Applications of regression analysis exist in almost every field …. In education, the dependent variable might be a student’s score on an achievement test and the independent variables characteristics of the student’s family, teachers, or school. analysis …
Across the nation states have created teacher evaluation systems based on student test scores parsed through regression analysis. The American Federation of Teachers supports the use of student test scores as part of multiple measures.
New York State passed a teacher and principal evaluation law based on multiple measures, and although the teacher union supported the underlying law the state union, NYSUT, is strongly critical of the implementation regulations approved by the Board of Regents.
NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi in a statement. “… the Regents ignored the voice of teachers; undermined more than a year of good-faith work and turned their backs on the concept of partnership.
Teacher evaluation systems rate teacher performance on a scale (in NYS  four gradations from “ineffective” to “well-developed”) and ignore the most difficult question: how do we improve the performance of individual teachers, teams of teachers and schools? There is no confidence that the supervisor observation-based system improves instruction, it’s a dance that satisfies the needs of teachers, to undergo the illusion of supervision and supervisors to justify the core of their jobs.
Unfortunately Joel Klein decided to emulate Jack Welsh instead of Peter Senge.
If we are interested in establishing models for improving practice we have to break down the walls of isolation and create time and space for teachers to work together.
 Organized groups provide the social interaction that often deepens learning and the interpersonal support and synergy necessary for creatively solving the complex problems of teaching and learning.
If we simply create time and space without creating structures within the time and space we will be wasting our time. If we want schools to become learning organizations we should take a close look at the work of Senge, especially “Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook” and Senge’s earlier work.
 In Schools that Learn, Peter Senge argues that teachers, administrators, and other members of school communities must learn how to build their own capacity; that is, they must develop the capacity to learn. From Senge’s perspective, real improvement will only occur if the people responsible for implementation design the change itself: “It is becoming clear that schools can be re-created, made vital, and sustainable renewed not by fiat or command, and not by regulation, but by taking the learning orientation”  

 Senge offers no prescriptions for success. He believes that, in order to be effective, solutions must be developed locally, not by “specialists” who sit far outside classroom and school walls. Instead, Senge offers a set of principles and activities, along with illustrative stories, designed to engage the reader in a process of learning and reflection. While some may be frustrated by the lack of specifics, not offering easy answers is precisely Senge’s point: practitioners must experience the messiness of change in order for real improvement to occur.
After eight years charging down the wrong path the current crop of the Wizards of Tweed have realized that teachers, supervisors, and, yes, parents, at the school level are the only folks who can bring about change. Change for success will not come magically, it will require incredibly hard work and external support and trust.
Trust, a quality that has been lacking for the eight years of the Bloomberg regency.

One response to “Collaboration Requires Trust: Will the Department Support Parents, Teachers and Supervisors at the School Level to Create Learning Organizations?

  1. In any professional field, much of the workday is spent in meetings. My mother-in-law always complains about the number of meetings with various people throughout her corporate workday (including weekends and through digital media). Teaching is the only profession that looks at meetings as secondary. I never understood that point. To this day, I cannot understand why teachers and classes are not grouped into mini-schools with meeting time scheduled within the workday. Having taught one of the many inclusion models, my teaching class load was reduced by one period so that a mandatory collaborative meeting between us teachers could occur. It was invaluable.
    In addition, the “professional development” that we receive two days a year is a waste. It is never what the individual teachers needs and its always a lecture…never a collaboration. I hope a future schools leader will realize this and give teachers a time to collaborate.


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