“The times they are a change ‘n'” and they are continuing to change. Last year it was the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and school stimulus funds. This year it is waiver of NCLB standards, as we hear of cheating, students and schools that are not meeting the latest standards, increased pressure for student accountability, and state and federal budget woes.
So what is next? Where should schools focus? Are there somethings that are simply best to ignore? Or how should schools respond during these times of uncertainty? When we read that some states and districts are not implementing plans for teacher merit pay, that renowned educators are questioning the wisdom of so much testing, and that in some states teachers are being laid off and class sizes are increasing, what is a rationale response?
For those of us in the educational improvement business, these are difficult questions. How should we position our organizations? For CEI it comes down to core beliefs– beliefs that schools, teachers, and administrators can be improved in ways that serve the needs of students, our society, our world, and our future. CEI continues to focus our efforts on workshops and technical assistance that are sound and that will outlast the latest trend or fad or regulation. Sure, we can assist your school with data driven instruction, curriculum design and mapping, and school turnarounds and transformations. However, our approach is to focus first on sound educational strategies and a sound research base so that if rules and regulations change, or as they change, schools will be better off.
CEI believes in an inquiry-based approach to education. However, we also support differentiating instruction, student-centered instruction, and in-depth learning. Rather than skimming the surface to touch upon multiple standards, we see the wisdom of going deeper into instruction so that students “learn to learn” or learn about how they as individuals learn. To support the latest standards we encourage cross-curricular instruction — something that has been an important component of educational reform for the past two decades. To support gains in student achievement, we encourage scaffolding instruction and providing appropriate prompts and supports for student-directed instruction. To support teachers we believe in instructional observation, modeling, demonstrating, and coaching. To support administrators we believe in and provide technical assistance that focuses on a schoolwide approach. To enhance all of these we believe in the power of many of the latest technologies. These are simply good, reasonable, ways to plan for the future while contending with the present.