Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thinking about quality teachers

Just read an interesting Op-Ed in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof (thanks for the idea, Mr. McNamar), about what he calls the crisis in American education. His conclusion is that teacher quality is the number one deciding factor in educational quality -- not class sizes, spending per student, wealthy district or poor district... Kristof says, "Good teachers matter more than anything; they are astonishingly important. It turns out that having a great teacher is far more important than being in a small class, or going to a good school with a mediocre teacher."

But the thing I found most fascinating was when I went to Mr. Kristof's blog and saw that there were 509 comments posted about his column. Many, many of those that I read were from teachers. And one thing was clear: they certainly did not have a consensus on what the issues are. Some of them said class sizes were the deciding factor. Some said parent involvement. Some said money (as in, teachers should be paid more than administrators).

I did see one recurring thing that I've been thinking about lately. The concept of teacher leadership and teamwork. One writer said, "Right now it is still the case that teachers work alone instead of as a team charged to achieve results." He argued that teachers (and their supervisors) need to work as a team to close the gaps in practice and results.

I am certainly new to the internal workings of school administration and teaching, but I find this pretty fascinating. It does seem to me that teachers are often alone. I'm sure I don't see the collaboration that does go on, but my suspicion is that a lot more of it could happen. I've met some amazing, motivated, creative teachers in my years as a parent. I've also met some teachers that were just sort of "there." Getting some of the former's skill to rub off on the latter seems like the sort of "professional development" that benefits more teachers, and thus more students, with a greater return on investment. Something to think about...

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