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Friday, October 22, 2010

"Show Me The Money"

“Show me the money!”  These words from the movie “Jerry Maguire” seem to describe some of the tenets of 2010 Kansas gubernatorial candidate Sam Brownback.  In one of his campaign brochures he is calling for educational leaders to “promote uniform accounting of school districts’ use of state funds and require transparent online spending reports.”  With many schools touting that every classroom has an electronic smart board and how “wired” they are, putting a monthly line item school budget online should be an easy fair.  And besides, with nothing to hide, the public could see exactly where every one of their taxpayer dollars is going.
Another Brownback “show me the money” tenet is to “ensure that students who pass the 4th grade read at grade level.”  I am anticipating that Mr. Brownback also means that these same students can write, articulate and comprehend at the 4th grade level (or above) as measured by a reliable standardized assessment.  Likewise, if a student does not reach this lofty goal, they should be provided with the appropriate services that will get them up to snuff instead of just being passed along.
I would think that school leaders would have already instituted—or are at least in the process of instituting—the two aforementioned Brownback tenets.  If not, hopefully the candidate for Kansas governor who wins will “show us the money” and not “show us the rhetoric “by launching these two important educational platforms.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What is an Effective Teacher?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving $45 million to six school districts for a two-year study of teaching to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Hogwash!  Give me and the master teachers I know the money and we’ll save the Gates’ time.  We’ll all tell you what the research says about effective teaching—and it has nothing to do with spending hours writing a kajillion objectives and standards, following a plethora of administrative directives, employing the latest “silver bullet” fad (e.g. class within a class, using alternative regular education programs, initiating late start or early start schedules, or for that matter using curriculum and pacing guides).
I believe after the Gates Foundation analyzes their data, they will find that great teaching is not easily quantifiable. In fact, they may find that great teaching might be likened to great artistry or great musicianship—it is a “gift” that is honed and molded through hard work over the years to become a “tour de force.”   The main commonality: Students learn from these caring, competent, compassionate teachers.
So Bill and Melinda, from the minds of some former great teachers, I offer you their top ten list of the qualities of great teachers: 1) insightful –knows about the students’ lives and is “street smart” , 2)intelligent-a master of the subject matter, 3)a good listener—hears out the students, 4)articulate-makes the subject matter understandable orally and in written form, 4)has a sense of humor-hey, once in awhile a student wants to play a joke on you, 5)has command presence—students know you are in charge without being a dictator, 6)has a fearless swagger-students just know that you know ,7)has a maestro’s instinct-can lead the group to perform masterfully, 8)well-read and well-versed in best teaching practices, 9)has developed a unique, winning  “coaching” style like a Phil Jackson or Vince Lombardi, 10)is a taskmaster with high expectations for all students .
You see Bill and Linda, it wasn’t that hard—and inexpensive to boot!