Monday, December 20, 2010

It happens in teams (Weingarten on football)

In Newsweek's new joint interview of Bill Gates and the AFT's Randi Weingarten, I love this paragraph:
Football teams do this all the time. They look at the tape after every game. Sometimes they do it during the game. They’re constantly deconstructing what is working and what isn’t working. And they’re jettisoning what isn’t working and building up on what is working, and doing it in a teamlike approach. We never do that investment in public schooling. What’s happening in Finland is they do that investment in the graduate schools of education before people become teachers. They recruit a very select group of people who become teachers. Now it is also true that Finland has a 5 percent poverty rate and the United States has a 20 percent poverty rate. But there’s this notion of really figuring out what the best teachers do and trying to scale that up.
That's from Ms. Weingarten, not Mr. Gates.  It's a great interview, with both voices focused on stronger education for America's students.

He's got a sound point about making annual formal evaluations more substantive, reflecting the Gates Foundation's deep investment in measuring effective teaching--an investment that even includes new video tools that produce something very like the game tapes used in football.

She's got a sound point, too.  Her focus is on year-round cycles of continuous improvement organized primarily by professional colleagues. At the school level, teams that work together to build skills and raise results are often called professional learning communities, and attempts to measure that sort of environment are made through surveys on working conditions.  She's also arguing for similar loops on a larger scale, both for preparing teachers and for defining standards, curriculum, and testing methods.

While both takes are important and the two strategies certainly should be deployed, Ms. Weingarten's emphasis on the continuous, team-based feedback process looks to me like the more important part of the total change we need to create.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!