OSWEGO, NY – After hearing an update on the Race To The Top initiative for nearly an hour Tuesday night, members of the Oswego City School District’s board of education agreed with the plan in principle.
However, the part about pulling educators out of the classroom to be trained didn’t sit well with the board.
The purpose of RTTT is to spur educational innovation and reform, create performance based standards for teachers and principals, and comply with the national standards among other goals.
“We’ve got kids that are not being taught,” board member Fran Hoefer said. “They are failing everywhere; mainly, because they aren’t spending enough time in class with quality teachers, period. And, all I’m listening about is we got to pull our teachers out of class so they can collaborate with each other and figure out why their kids aren’t learning anything. We’re pulling our teachers out of class to teach them how to teach and we’re forgetting about the fact that our children don’t have (in the classroom.”
He pointed out the district calendar has 10 half days, two superintendent days, five snow days and “we’ve got every vacation known to God; we’ve got a seven-hour school day with lunch included. We are not giving our children enough time with quality teachers. That’s what’s wrong!”
I’m wondering what planet I live on. Is this The Twilight Zone or what? What is wrong?
The problem with education these days, according to Hoefer, is that the kids aren’t getting enough quality time in the classroom.
“We’re solving this problem by pulling our teachers out to teach them how to teach,” he lamented. “It’s giving me nightmares that we’ve got 10 half days and two superintendent days, five snow days and pull-outs everywhere we go. We are short-changing kids and we are failing because we are forgetting that we have to have our kids in class with teachers if we’re going to teach them anything!”
“Clearly, what you see here (the presentation) is just the tip of the iceberg of the changes that will be coming down. Addressing the issues that are near and dear to you, Fran, and I think everyone at this table and everybody in this room, our interest is to make sure that students are achieving at a very high level and are able to be competitive in society, now a global society,” noted Bill Crist, superintendent.
Having teachers be better trained and understanding who their students are and what the students’ needs are – having the “very best teachers in the classroom,” does require some re-training, the superintendent pointed out.
“I’d much rather have a teacher in the classroom for a shorter period of time who is very, very focused in the lesson and understands and delivers the lesson to children than someone who doesn’t understand the students as well as they need to this day and age and can’t deliver that lesson,” Crist said. “I hear your frustration on that, Fran.”
“If we need to train our teachers to be better teachers, we don’t need to pull them out of the classroom,” Hoefer argued. “I’m sorry. If a teacher is supposed to be teaching kids 2+2 and their ABCs, multiplication tables, pulling them out for a collaborative meeting with a bunch of other teachers is not going to give those kids the time to recite their ABCs. You don’t pull teachers out of the classroom to teach them how to teach; you don’t pull a roofer off a roof to teach him how to roof! You learn by doing.”
He suggested pulling teachers out of cafeteria duty, study halls or some other place for training.
“A lot of people would agree with what you’re saying,” said Board President John Dunsmoor. “I agree, something’s got to be done.”
The board members agreed there has to be a better way to do this.
“This is huge change. This is unprecedented change,” said Cathy Chamberlain, assistant superintendent for curriculum. “In order to make that change we have to provide the opportunity for training. It’s a whole new way of teaching. It’s a change across the whole state, the whole country. The whole country is going to be focused on these new standards. You can’t just hand this new curriculum to a teacher and say, ‘OK, next year this is what you’re going to have to do. See ya.’ You can’t do that.”
“We’re not arguing with that,” interjected board member Sam Tripp. Teachers, he said, should be in the classroom.
Teachers need to get together so they are sure they are working on the right thing for their students and the right areas that teachers may be having difficulties in, Chamberlain said.
“You mean to tell me if you are a writing teacher you have to meet with a bunch of other teachers to find out if your own students don’t know how to write? Come on, give me a break,” Hoefer asked.
“You absolutely have to. You have to really dig very deep in the data,” she explained.
The board would examine its options in hopes of finding a compromise, Dunsmoor said.
“We do need to work on that. I don’t disagree with what you guys are all doing, the collaboration, on the board we all do that. It’s our jobs,” Dunsmoor told Chamberlain. “But, you don’t do it when you have to be on the job.”