By Jim Parsons and Dennis Shirley
The piles of contradictory research available about education today can be baffling. Some days, we feel we have no choice but to just throw up our hands in despair. How shall these conflicts be sorted out? Foundationally, we believe no sorting out will occur without teachers in the room. Teachers know much that often doesn’t find its way into policy. Here’s one thing we know. The task of including teachers in policy building is crucial because the conditions under which teachers work cannot be removed from their abilities to help students learn. This begs the question: What do teachers need to do their work well?
We believe teachers need effective ways to focus on their core task of improving teaching and learning. In times of financial constraint, increasingly a pattern in Canada, governments’ educational policy becomes conservative – focused first on audits and second upon assignment. The result is political “salami slicing,” an approach we have seen in Alberta where the highly innovative Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI), despite excellent results, was “trimmed”from the educational budget in March 2013. Provincial educational leaders retreated to the security of bureaucratic apparatuses, and any hint of collegial approaches to educational progress fell victim to self-protective “cones of silence.” School level budgets have been cut and innovation exorcised. This does no favor for our students, our teachers, our communities, or our country. Engaged collaborative/creative thinking is needed desperately now to forward our students’ learning and to improve our schools into places we all want to work in.
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