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How Would You Spend the Education Stimulus Funds?

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Ariel Sacks, guest blogging at Public School Insights, says she would invest in efforts to keep effective teachers from leaving the classroom. For her, that means creating and compensating teacher-leadership roles—something that is shamefully lacking at present:

I serve as a grade team facilitator, mentor teacher and curriculum developer, as well as a full-time teacher. These positions help teachers support one another and gain a voice in their schools, which can improve working conditions and outcomes for students. However, the titles and responsibilities don’t represent career advancement for me (or most other teachers) because, unlike in other professions, I’m not paid for my leadership skills. I could switch back to lunch duty and see no change in salary. Teacher compensation must be reshaped to reward and retain teachers who make valuable contributions to their school communities.

Other members of the Teacher Leaders Network will also be chiming in on this question on the PSI blog.

5 Comments

My advice is to offer classes to the parents on the importance of education and respect. See the problem is just the teachers or the kids but the parents are a big part of the problem. No one stresses the importance of education and respect, two things the kids lack. Many feel the are entitled or owed something and can get away with any behavior imaginable. First start educating the parents, teach them the value of an education then maybe it will trickle down to the children

Oh, Anthony D, what you suggest is such a blind alley. When you get down to it, and start researching what parents believe about education--and its importance to their children, it turns out that particularly low-income and minority parents rank higher than their kids' teachers. At middle school this becomes critical, because at that developmental stage, students are likely to be most heavily influenced by their teachers' perceptions of what it is important for them to know.

Using short term funds for long-term impact is always a difficult task--speaking as a former grant-writer. The kinds of things that are likely to be a good fit for that kind of funding are purchases of things that will hang around for awhile and have an impact (rewiring schools to accommodate current technology and providing intensive training to teachers in ways to use it in supportive ways in the classroom, for instance), or in training that will enable the addition of or adding depth to something that already exists. I doubt that Anthony D, or others who share his beliefs, would hold still for it, but an intensive one-year program of home-visits and relationship-building with the community, could bring a dramatic turn-around in attitudes, or provide data needed to meaningfully respond to real (as opposed to perceived) needs of students and families.

My greatest fear is that this short-term funding comes to districts woefully unprepared to utilize it meaningfully. A well-prepared district would already have deep clarity with regard to mission, have priorities determined based on ways to distribute scarce resources to those activities most closely aligned with mission, have already conducted a number of needs assessments in various areas, have in place ongoing data-collection activities in order to evaluate the impact of any programs implemented or changed and enhanced. For districts that have already accepted the necessity of working in this way on an ongoing basis, stimulus dollars should come as a great opportunity to move forward in ways that have already been determined. For districts who perpetually reject such work as meaningless exercises, or the non-applicable trappings of the business world, the challenge will be to find ways to spend the money fast enough before it disappears. Look for lots of pet projects to come begging. Many flavors of the week, or ways to fix things that are not the problem.

I also am a mentor teacher, a grade level facilitator, coordinator and full time teacher. I agree that there is no compensation for leadership roles within the school. However, I do feel that districts are being asked to implement so many new initiatives including Data Driven Decision Making, Scientific Research Based Interventions, full Inclusion for students with special needs and a host of other programs that are underfunded. In my district we simply do not have the staffing to successfully and fully implement these initiatives. During budget time there is always the threat and especially in these tough economic times for teacher cuts and eliminiations which further complicates the already existing issue of lack of support services. I feel that teacher jobs need to be saved. We need good, effective teachers to be well trained and versed in new initiatives and best teaching practices in order to implement them effectively and with fidelity. Teachers need to have opportunities to recieve intensive training that directly relates to the long term goals of the district and school.

Elsie:

Just to play Devil's Advocate here a bit--I don't see everything that you list as being necessarily a "new initiative," or "program." For instance--I know that districts have employed standardized tests since I was a child (and that was a very long time ago). Certainly they have been making decisions about all kinds of things, as well. Is it really the case that no one was making a connection between the two? Prior to NCLB (or whatever standards movement might have preceded it in your state)--were decisions really being made in the dark? Were standardized tests really just feel good events for the successful and merely filed away for the less successful? I know it has been very important to me as a parent that the standardization of testing has provided me with a very helpful tool in sorting out which problems are primarily individual and which problems are more widespread within the school population. I am not always convinced that results are being looked at in these ways yet (least-wise, teachers don't talk to parents about them). But it doesn't seem like it should be all that new-fangled an idea.

Likewise--scientifically-based research. Now, I've only been a parent for a couple of decades now, but it seems as though during that time teachers have always felt that they were on pretty solid ground in trusting whatever it was that they were doing. Was that all a bluff? They weren't all just making it up, were they? I know that I can recall at least one teacher telling me about reading up on research when she decided to change the way that she was teaching spelling to her students. Rather than memorizing a list each week, she was teaching "word attack" skills--prefixes, suffixes, how to go looking for an unfamiliar word in the dictionary. But--she arrived there from checking into what the research said. Maybe she was just a special exception.

Now--it is true that the inclusion of students with disabilities has only been around for the couple of decades in which I have been a parent. But, I have been hearing since my youngest was in kindergarten (now he's a senior) that teachers weren't properly trained for that sort of thing. How long does it take for teachers to get trained? I have to wonder if they are really all that interested.

You are right--training should relate directly to the long (and short) term goals of the district. But--that does mean that someone in a decision-making capacity will have to determine what training teachers will receive. In my experience, teachers don't take that kind of situation very well. You'll have to make sure they get lunch and a day off of school--maybe toss in some nice tote bags as well.

Margo/Mom frequently attacks and belittles teachers on this blog, but the other day she revealed the source of her bitterness and thinly veiled anger against the teaching profession:

"In the summer it is more difficult to maintain consistent structure and scheduling--simply because school is out and activities and involvements have to be pieced together from whatever is available. In addition, many summers my kid had to be in school making up stuff that he wasn't able to get during the school year."

Unfortunately her son probably has ADHD or ADD, and she blames her child's teachers for all of his problems. Since she has a read a few books on teaching, she thinks she understands the complexities of actually being a teacher. This is my challenge to Margo/Mom: stop blogging and become a teacher. You will need the following attributes: courage, humility, compassion, patience, intelligence, knowledge, persistence, and an appetite for hardwork that goes unacknowledged, uncompensated, and unappreciated.

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  • Greer Gaiman: Margo/Mom frequently attacks and belittles teachers on this blog, but read more
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