Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Expert teachers raise student scores

Imagine this: classroom teachers, left to their own devices and professional judgment, pulled math scores in a Florida elementary school up from a collective "D" to a "B."

How did they do it? By putting away the textbooks and using their skills. As this story by St. Petersburg Times reporter Sylvia Lim demonstrates, canned curricula and top-down mandates are no substitute for the expertise of a highly trained professional:

Instead of textbooks, teachers used games, group assignments and other materials. They also focused on showing students different ways to solve the same problem.
"We get to pull activities targeted for higher level of engagement with students, rather than using textbooks or worksheets," said teacher Denise White, who helped rewrite the curriculum.

Let this story serve as an object lesson to those who believe that all we need is a rigorous state-mandated curriculum, high-stakes tests, a handful of consultants and a few warm bodies in front of the classroom to keep the students "on task." It all comes back to excellent teachers who are allowed to exercise their professional judgment.

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