Want to improve teaching and learning? Read this now

If you’re interested in serious school reform, ramped-up student learning, a transformed teaching profession—and if you have time to read only 1,190 words in 2012, go to Education Week and read Art Wise’s incisive commentary, “End the Tyranny of the Self-Contained Classroom.” Art hired me at RAND some 27 years ago and now is CTQ’s board chair. I still learn a great deal from him.

As Art notes in the piece, even the most ambitious, well-designed, and carefully implemented reforms to improve teaching effectiveness will only go so far if policymakers don’t jettison the “one teacher to 25 students” school model. Tougher evaluation systems will never be implemented if few administrators have to assess many teachers. Expanded learning opportunities for students won’t happen if every teacher has to know everything about the Common Core, working in isolation from one another.

Performance pay won’t mean anything for student achievement until teachers have much more time to team-teach and spread their expertise to colleagues. And according to Art, the “tyranny” of the egg-crate classroom undermines teachers’ capacity to draw on one another’s strengths and solve problems collectively. We are well into the second decade of the twenty-first century, and our teaching profession is still organized as if it were the 1920s.

So what to do?

Let’s begin with a new Race to the Top framework that awards states and districts for breaking down classroom walls, places a premium on teacher teams (and assesses them as a collective), and, looking toward the vision of TEACHING 2030, “blurs the line of distinction between those who teach in schools and those who lead them.”

Then let’s focus on using a new organizational structure to capitalize on the skills of 100,000 National Board Certified Teachers—teachers whom Art duly notes are “all dressed up with no place to go.” (Keep your eyes peeled for the development of CTQ’s small band of innovative NBCTs from several states who have a lot to offer in implementing the Common Core.)

Isn’t it time to read this piece and think differently about serious school reform, ramped-up student learning, and a transformed teaching profession? I say it is.

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