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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Programs that Don't Work: What's a Teacher to Do?

Years ago I contested a program that I felt didn't work. Few listened, but year after year the program demonstrated little to no result. Eventually the program was dismantled and teachers were blamed for the program's lack of success. It was never teachers who were at fault here but instead the way the program was designed that was to blame--the program lacked good priority, timing, staffing, and analysis--that's why it didn't work.

Lately I've noted another program that is broken. This program did work originally and served a good purpose, but now it's clear that the program's benefits have lessened. This program demise is due to the fact that many of the supports and structures that surround the program have changed so the program as it was integrated is no longer needed or effective. Instead thanks to good technology, skilled staffing, and parent-school collaboration, we can design a much more effective program, one that is consistent and one that prioritizes research-based development of student skills, concept, and knowledge. In a sense this would be a more modern way to implement an inclusion-related program.

Though I see great promise and potential in this change, there is little support for it and unwillingness to explore new ideas. Instead without any evidence I am told the program is working well and I am told that other additions are successful when I've yet to see any true evidence of that. This program debate is similar to the debate related to the program I first mentioned, the one that has recently been disbanded.

In all of this programming teachers' voices are mostly left out of the program design, analysis, and debate--we are seen as the program robots whose job is to carry out program dictates whether we agree or not. It is a frustrating role particularly since I see so much opportunity and potential for betterment.

At one time this attitude of teacher-robot pervaded the school system where I work. Recent changes have diminished this attitude to only a few areas now as new leadership has been much more inclusive of teacher voice and teacher leadership--this has been awesome and has truly inspired terrific energy and efforts towards betterment. Where the denial of teacher voice or experience continues, frustration also continues--a frustration I want to consider with colleagues and our union in the days ahead. Why are some resistant to teacher voice, choice, and experience? Why are some unwilling to provide an evidenced-based argument for programs that some may seem as outdated and miss-prioritized? Why is there a reluctance to look deeply at the latest research with a team approach and instead continue to support a top-down hierarchical approach with regard to new programming and efforts.

I will continue to think about this in the days ahead, and what will lead my thoughts are the following questions:

  • What data points support the programs in place? How do we know this program is successful?
  • Why is there reluctance to think differently, develop, and analyze regularly and inclusively?
  • Where is my energy best invested in light of the fact that there are areas of great teacher support and regard for distributive leadership models, and there are areas of less teacher support and greater value for hierarchical leadership models. 
This summer I'll do a good analysis of what works and what doesn't work. I'll use a broad lens, many data points, and current research. I'll make changes to programming and efforts related to this. I will be happy to embrace efforts that will improve the program and teaching in ways that matter, but I won't accept change that is not supported by truthful evidence and results. Onward.