Is It a New Day?

Post by CJN

School reform can be hashed over until the end of time, but here and now a few changes have flipped to the top of the pile.

In the February 2009 stimulus package authorized by Congress, a $54 million “stabilization” fund was established to protect schools and school districts against teacher layoffs.  As any current or former teacher knows, laying off and hiring again at the last minute is the worst hindrance to stability in a school, certain to add an obstacle to classroom academic achievement, the improvement of which is every school’s goal.

Next reform of importance is holding down student-teacher ratios.  In spite of studies that support both sides of the teacher-student ratio argument, schools that have increased the number of students who are proficient in reading and math (the current standard), did so with the help of extra teaching personnel that reduced class size in the most important subject areas.  Data from Success for All, originally developed at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University, provides an example of the improvement possible.

Of course, the one issue that is up front in any discussion of education reform is the need for “highly qualified” teachers.  See, for example, George F. Will’s “The Last Word” opinion in Newsweek (March 23, 2009).  Now, much research has delineated the best practices that teachers should use to benefit their student’s achievement.  In California, teacher preparation programs have improved since the concept of best practices has been introduced and new teachers are well- equipped for the instructional goals in today’s schools.

Complaining about bad teachers doesn’t help.  To make sure new professionals continue to receive staff development and that experienced teachers have access to new practices, funding is necessary.

Careful planning and use of funding resources helps.  An example is the interactive DVD which allows for training in multiple staff development situations and doesn’t require the cost for trainers to come to the school site.

So, three reforms that every state governor in the union must address if the stimulus money is directed to him or her: stop laying teachers off, reduce the student-teacher ratio, provide resources to keep teachers on top of the game.  A good place to start.

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