Friday, February 26, 2016

Teacher and student voices matter now more than ever

| By Cory Curl |

Dollars, Decisions, and Data – from my experience, these “Three D’s” have been the traditional foundation for much of education policy work for as long as I can figure. If you were trying to decide how to improve student achievement and educational attainment, you worked out how to increase or redirect funding; what policy decisions need to be added or taken out, or made tighter or looser; and what data should be collected, analyzed, and reported to drive change throughout the system.

Education policy experts were largely those who specialized in one or more of the Three D’s.

In the last few years, however, it’s become clear that the Three D’s, while necessary, are completely insufficient for us to make the dramatic gains in student achievement and educational attainment we need as a commonwealth and as a nation.

Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow Tricia Shelton, other teacher leaders, and Student Voice Team members share their classroom insights to inform their postsecondary transition study
Around 2007, the education policy world had a collective “aha!” moment that the key to unlocking educational improvement rested in promoting great teaching – teaching that leads to strong student learning. Reports from The Hamilton ProjectTNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project), and many others underscored that the quality of teaching varied, and the education system itself did little to value great teaching over not-yet-great teaching.

Education policy experts reacted to this discovery by relying on the Three D’s, and set about redirecting dollars, making policy decisions, and developing new measures to evaluate and value great teaching.

But then, in 2013 or so, it became abundantly clear that this was but a first step.
  • John Hattie’s research indicated that one of the most powerful practices for student learning is for teachers to give specific, actionable feedback to students.
  • The Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project found that students have accurate insights into teacher practices that lead to learning.
  • National Academies of Science report highlighted that most important factor for learning in the early childhood years are the interactions between – you guessed it – teacher and student.
Now we know – we will never get the change we seek until strengthening the learning process between teachers and students is the foundation of our work.

If you’re trying to work on how to improve student achievement and educational attainment, you are missing the boat if you don’t have the most important experts – teachers and students – around the table as equal partners.

For the Prichard Committee to do justice to our efforts to inform the public and policymakers, study the issues, and engage with business and community leaders, families and other citizens, we are ever more committed to lifting up the expertise of students and their teachers.

We collaborate with Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellows and other teacher leaders across the state to share teachers’ stories of implementing higher standards, incorporate their insights into our in-depth studies of issues such as the achievement gap, and partner with them in engaging with families and communities. We have launched our Student Voice Team to conduct outreach to collect and share diverse students’ stories, facilitate study groups on a range of issues from school climate to the achievement gap, and lend its expertise and research to educators and other thought leaders as it engages in conversations across the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Student Voice Team leader Andrew Brennan learns from the young Kentucky students

Looking ahead, expect to see us continue to make teacher and student voices an essential part of our work to help build awareness and deepen understanding of what is happening – or not yet happening – in classrooms so that parents, local school board members, and other citizens throughout the state can ask good questions and raise demand for great teaching that leads to strong learning.

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