How to Solve Three Problems That Cause Poor School Performance
Mar 6, 2010 Learning Methodology 3942 Views
Secretary Arne Duncan of the U.S. Department of Education is concerned about improving the effectiveness of teachers and addressing the issue of low performing schools. However, the current focus on student test scores to assess teacher performance seems misguided. Student test scores are only a symptom of teacher effectiveness. If the goal is successful student learning, it can only be achieved through better and more effective teacher preparation, principal preparation, and classroom oversight.
Problem: Many teachers in challenged schools are unprepared to meet the needs of different learners or to manage their classrooms.
Many long-term and some new teachers have no idea how to create an effective lesson plan. They do not know how to write specific, observable, measurable learning objectives. They do not understand the need to incorporate a variety of learning activities that will give the students an opportunity to learn and apply the lesson.
They do not check for comprehension to see if they need to re-teach a lesson before they assign independent study.
Some new teachers have not been taught how to create or maintain an effective learning environment. They either attempt to be the students' friends or act as their disciplinarians. If they want to be the students' friends, they are unwilling to establish limits or to constructively focus the students on learning the lesson content. If they see themselves primarily as disciplinarians, they focus all of their time and energy on control rather than real learning, resulting in an adversarial, anxiety-filled, and often abusive environment. Both approaches are detrimental to effective learning.
Solution: Provide on-site training on diversified curriculum design and classroom management techniques.
Problem: Many principals in challenged schools are unprepared to supervise, monitor or manage teacher performance.
The effectiveness of the teachers and the learning environment that they create are directly within the control of the principals. However, many of the principals who are willing to move to impoverished areas lack the necessary supervisory and performance management skills. In other words, they do not know how to manage, coach, or hold poor teachers accountable for making demonstrable constructive improvements in their teaching or classroom management styles. As a result, the schools fail.
There are two areas in which school principals need additional training. First, principals need to be trained in learning principles and lesson plan design, so that they can effectively review teacher performance.
Some principals do not understand basic learning principles or what an effective lesson plan should look like. As a result, they are ill equipped to review lesson plans to ensure that they are effective.
Principals need to ensure that their teachers set their students up for success. This means incorporating a variety of learning activities to meet the needs of different learning styles. This also means reinforcing the need to check student comprehension and re-teach as needed.
Second, principals need to be trained in effective supervision, performance management, and coaching techniques so that they can establish, monitor and enforce teacher accountability. This includes the skills to coach low performing teachers, set specific remedial performance goals and measures and time tables, establish a monitoring process, and follow through.
Solution: Provide principals training in basic learning principles and lesson plan design, as well as training in supervision, performance management, and coaching.
Problem: Many teachers in challenged schools are not held accountable for the teaching choices they make and the manner in which they interact with students.
Once trained, the teachers need to be held accountable for using effective lesson design and classroom management techniques to achieve real learning in their classrooms. Some teachers have literally given up. Because these teachers also have no classroom management skills, chaos results and no learning takes place.
Some teachers interact with their students in a manner that indicates they do not like or respect them. These teachers are only concerned about "getting through" the syllabus rather than ensuring that their students successfully learn the syllabus content.
These issues only surface and become apparent during classroom audits.
There is a real need for an objective outside observer to audit these classes. First, this ensures an educated review and assessment of the degree of learning, based on the lesson plan and its execution.
Second, this ensures an unbiased review of teacher behavior in the classroom.
Third, auditor documentation and feedback provide validation for effective teachers and incentive for the principals to take specific remedial action in the case of ineffective teachers.
Solution: Bring in outside observers to conduct objective classroom audits.
If the goal is to improve the effectiveness of teachers and address the issue of low performing schools, there are three problems that must be solved: inadequate teacher training, inadequate principal preparation, and inadequate classroom oversight. Better education of teachers and principals is necessary- in the long term, at the college level, and in the short term, through onsite training programs. More objective oversight of teacher performance in the classroom is also necessary. Until the time when principals are better qualified to assess teacher performance, an objective third party auditor should be used.