Saturday, July 02, 2005

Reflecting on that ETS survey...

That ETS survey so often referenced in recent education blogs and columns peaked my interest. At the recommendation of high school English teacher/columnist Erica Jacobs, I perused the power point rather than rely solely on the Executive Summary. Like Jenny D, Chris Correa, and David Broder before me, I found lots to think about.

For example..... Why are we surprised that teachers, parents, and the public at large have differing ideas about education reform? An information gap between lay people and education experts should explain part of this schism. Words like accountability and “real world learning”, both part of the ETS survey, can be understood to mean different things to different people, (despite a brief description provided by the ETS survey teams). Also, as Erica Jacobs says, teachers have actually SEEN those high stakes tests. That should count for something.

I was heartened by the data that shows that the public understands how much of a teacher’s job is affected by sources outside of school. I wonder, though, what the public is willing to do about this. I suspect an even greater gap consists between schools and the public about providing extra services and support to address these “broader problems of society” affecting student achievement.

At my school, that would mean keeping the emotional disabilities program’s full time social worker and psychologist. Right now, these positions are in danger of being axed due to budget concerns. According to the ETS data, the public recognizes our need to overcome family and community problems….but unfortunately, the local budget process just might reveal something else. What will it take to convince the bean counters that on- demand clinical staff is necessary to teach children with complicated, oppressive mental health issues?

Lastly, the disconnect between parents and teachers needs to be addressed, in equal proportion to the focus on teacher quality and accountability. Until we educators can communicate why we feel as we do, others will mistake our views as “soft bigotry” or a function of laziness. Even (one of my faves) Jenny D.-an advocate for education reform and improved student achievement- mistakes teachers’ support for differentiation as a belief that not “all kids can learn”.

There’s a long road ahead, that’s for sure.

No comments: