So I am sitting here in a coffee shop, m’hmming, and nodding my head in agreement at my computer. So much so, I realize that I am getting some odd looks from people sipping their chai tea at neighboring tables. But I can’t help it because on my screen is the recently released policy paper, “Measuring Learning, Supporting Teaching: Classroom Experts’ Recommendations for an Effective Evaluation System,” authored by the Illinois New Millennium Initiative (Illinois NMI). It aligns with what I hope will be the direction of reform that education will take. And the best part is that it is written by fellow teachers in the classroom. I am struck with how teachers from across content areas, districts, regions, and states are faced with extraordinarily similar reforms. What is even more interesting is that we, as teachers, offer similar solutions. As part of the Denver NMI, I know that our cohort of teachers have had conversations regarding these same topics, resulting in comparable solutions.
I trust that this is not a coincidence, but proof of the reliability that teachers in the trenches see holes in the system, and can offer the right type of solutions that do not merely plug these holes. No, the teachers of the NMIs offer an entire new system that reaches beyond repair: it re-designs. It is what education is demanding, so I applaud the teachers of Illinois who stepped up to the plate and offered authentic solutions that allow the teacher voice to be on the forefront of reform.
Some highlights that resounded with me:
- The shared belief that effective teachers “utilize all resources” (p.3)
The simple fact that resources of the community need to be utilized is often overlooked. We often times look to involve others in the community to be in the schools, but how often do we utilize their specific skills that can enhance a student’s learning? There are so many skill sets that community members have mastered that can offer our students insight and experience that reach beyond the classroom. With dwindling budgets, utilizing these people may be our greatest, and most economical, resource.
- “We encourage… use of multiple measures of student assessment” (p.5)
The Illinois NMI recommendation for developing multiple measures, and having teachers lead the development of these assessments, makes so much sense. We are the experts in the field with the most real-life experience. When this is combined with up-to-date research and data, the reliability and validity of the assessment increases. Because this data drives the instruction occurring in the classroom, our students cannot afford to have anything less.
- “Instead, we should compensate teachers for things that do impact effectiveness … We want to be clear that these are investments, not incentives for effectiveness.” (p. 7)
Compensation is an investment…not an incentive…I love this point so much I want it to become a bumper sticker! So often it seems we, as teachers, jump through hoops and punch a time card in order to claw our way up the salary schedule. This is so irksome, knowing that this does not accurately reflect what happens within the classroom. If we invest in the topics that the Illinois NMI point out in terms of compensation, we will retain the high caliber teachers that positively impact student learning.
After reading the Illinois NMI report, I am encouraged by the recommendations of this policy paper. The collaboration of the NMI teachers offers real-student-centered solutions for the reforms that are taking place across the country. I hope that this collaborative nature continues in order to see these recommendations become a reality.