Pass or Fail: Supporting Teachers to Enhance Educational Value

In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.

While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?

How do we support teachers to help them achieve the level of competency required in America today? Are we doing enough to support what we expect them to accomplish?

As part of the third-year evaluation activities, one study asked a group of lead teachers to indicate what they valued most in the ORSI effort to enhance teacher experiences and provide supports.

According to the results, teachers most valued informative professional development that they could take back and incorporate into their classrooms. They also reported valuing the experience of being treated like professionals because it helped them to change practices in classrooms when improvements were needed. The study also indicated that teachers valued being part of a network, being able to share information with other professionals to discuss practices that could improve student learning.

When forced to accept a new curriculum and make difficult changes in instructional approach, teachers most valued having access to support groups and workshops on the aspects of effectively teaching new material, especially math and science topics. Listening to nationally recognized trainers were also said to make a positive difference when it was necessary to adopt a new curriculum and make difficult changes in approach.

In other words, teachers value support from the institution of education itself. They also value the opportunity to be exposed to information on best practices for teaching and for information about curricula and standards. Allowing teachers to understand why the system expects them to teach certain knowledge and skills helps them to be more effective at their jobs.

Strategies such as providing regional networking and direct assistance to schools also helped remove the isolation and access issues for teachers looking to acquire new skills. Access to information, including hands-on materials, information on teaching strategies about advanced content, and opportunities to work with other teachers on the same grade level emerged as important support strategies. Teachers also value the administrative support of principals and superintendents who can pass along useful, research-based information.

According to the ORSI, most school administrators strongly supported requests of teachers to attend regional trainings that promise to improve skills in raising student achievement in math and science. One third-grade teacher reported that “ORSI professional development targets specifically the programs we use, and recommends practices for teaching more effectively within those programs.”A fifth-grade teacher indicated that “professional development opportunities now are convenient and well-publicized within our school. We are now encouraged to attend professional development.”

Adequate supports like these help ensure that teachers are consistently able to set students at the center of instruction, helping teachers to guide students and implement practices that enhance and fine-tune the teaching of the individual child instead of the class. Entire districts can benefit when school and district leaders allow teachers to examine curricula and learn new teaching practices by networking with their colleagues.

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