1st Nine Weeks Ends (What did we learn?)

The first nine weeks of the 2007 school year ended this week. It amazes me how significant this is for students and teachers. It is equally amazing how little we do with the significant information this ending provides. I’d like to figure out how we can change that.

First, the end of the first nine weeks brings forth an official report of student progress. Grades predict all sorts of things about our student’s performance on tasks yet to be performed. We know this, thus we have continued the practice of assigning grades for the last ten thousand years. But how do we use this data? Do all teachers use the grade reports in the same way? Are they provided time and support for analyzing the data? Who is responsible for coordinating the data when students have more than one teacher? Is there a system in place for using data? The answers to these questions are a bit scary. If schools received a report card on the ways we use the report card to better serve students, I’m afraid we’d fail.

Next, the end of the first nine weeks represents something different for new teachers. Nine weeks is just enough time to begin making a determination of your satisfaction with a school, its system, or with the professional in general. Yet, there is plenty of time left in the school year for a new teacher’s deep concerns to be address so that his or her disenchantment with a school, a system, or the profession might be lessened. Who addresses this? When do these conversations take place? What steps are taken to assure a teacher that his or her concerns and opinions are being taken seriously? How often does a very talented teacher leave a school or the profession because he or she felt isolated, overburdened, and unsupported? We know what needs to happen. Why are we unable to provide teachers with ALL they need?

Moreover, the end of the first nine weeks is a perfect time to take a school’s temperature. We know that a school with a cooperative, positive climate experiences success. But eduators are notorius for waiting for the summer to work toward changing the school climate. We love to “work” on the climate by hosting a back to school party, planning a fun summer workshop, or creating team building activities for our teachers just before school starts in the fall. Do we do any of these things during the school year? When would we? Who would plan them? Does anyone believe that school climate is more important than all the fifty things on our do to list?

One answer to all of these questions is actually very simple. The person for all of these jobs is not the principal. We do not need to create another position to handle these tasks. The person is already in the building and doing much of what I have already mentioned. A small group of teacher leaders in every school in America can do all of this.

The other answer to these questions may not be so simple. These teachers must be compensated. Yes, they deserve to be “paid” more than the other teachers, because they are doing more than other teachers. In some schools they are already doing much of the “nine week school-assessment” for free. They would do even more if compensated. And many would do it for something other than money. Creative administrators understand that they do not have to do all the work. They set things up to encourage the right people to do the what they are best at doing. Providing an ocassional duty-free lunch or an extra biweekly planning period might be all it would take. Basically, the “no excuse for not trying something” attitude will yeild results.

The end of the nine weeks is filled with opportunities for students and teachers. We must reflect using systematic methods to determine what has taken place during this important beginning of school. We must empower teacher leaders to address the concerns revealed to us from our first nine weeks report.

Above all, we must not make excuses for why we have once again failed to properly use the data we have collected.

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