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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Good Programs: Prove It!

There are programs that some say are successful, but the data has never been transparently and comprehensively shared or discussed.

Why wouldn't I trust a program's success?

Lack of trust comes from observation and research, yet if I was privy to the data, I might think differently. Good subjective and objective data/observation and research altogether leads to good analysis of a program. I don't believe it's one point of review as all areas can be easily manipulated to tell the story desired.

As I think of the programs I promote, I am thinking of the success or lack of success.

In general the work I do to enrich students has been successful. Students do well and are typically engaged in this work. Some might say that these are the easiest students to teach as they learn quickly and are generally curious.

I worry sometimes about the work with struggling students. This is work that demands the coordination of many, many resources including guidance, special education, therapists, teaching assistants, special programming, and more. Teaching complex students demands a careful, coordinated approach that is planned so that there are just right supports. This means that the supports serve to elevate a student rather than dilute what's possible. To teach these "challenging to teach" students well takes significant, streamlined coordination so there's enough time to make and assess plans and also lots of time for the needed teaching, coaching, and support.

As for the children in between, with steady teaching, good coaching, parent-school connection, and care, they typically make good progress.

In the past, I was happy overall with my academic teaching. I analyzed the programs each spring and chose areas to improve upon. It was mostly steady progress. Now with less voice with regard to programs that growth process is less easy to implement as my work now depends much more on the directives of others who are distanced from the day-to-day classroom events. This actually makes it more difficult to develop the program because there is an added layer of advocacy required. In a sense, I have to continually advocate for research, experience, and ideas I have and prove the affect of that work--proof that's hard to come by when you're told to teach in specific ways that differ from your past ways of teaching and learning.

I have also been pleased with new programming that has been instituted over time. For example last year we worked closely with local environmental organizations and people to develop the science curriculum. New programming has essentially pushed that programming out since there's no time to do that programming and the new programming--programming created and directed by those outside of the teaching team.

I think that it's good to have to prove the benefits of a program, but I also believe that we don't always have the time or freedom to teach in ways we believe in enough to gather good data or observations for proof. Sometimes we have to trust intuition, innovate, and take responsible risks too in order to develop good programs for teaching and learning.

Evidence, however, is important when it comes to advocacy. I want to think more about this in the days ahead.