Education Week - August 28, 2013 - (Page 27)
EDUCATION WEEK AUGUST 28, 2013 www.edweek.org
Are states really focusing on the crucial details
of implementation and allotting enough time and
resources to get the job done?”
tion. Is this really time well spent?
Figuring out the right amount
of practice for a new skill or concept,
the correct order of introduction,
when to provide more guided
instruction, and when to provide
more fluid structure is difficult.
The common-core mathematics
standards provide a more overt
progression than do the English/
language arts, or ELA, standards.
While the appendix to the ELA
standards provides a progression
for phonemic awareness and language
skills, no such progression
exists for writing. The standards
themselves contain a phonics progression,
but details on teaching
are left up to schools.
Unlike the mathematics standards,
the ELA standards are
pedagogically neutral, except for
their focus on close reading. Textbook
publishers, if they do the job
right and thoroughly, can bolster
the implementation of strong curriculum
to support achievement.
New math and ELA texts and
resources are essential to implementing
the common core successfully.
If left to schools and districts
alone, articulation and coherence
may be elusive.
Amnesia also seems to afflict
some educators when it comes to
the National Reading Panel findings
from April 2000, which recommended
that systematic phonics be
PAGE 29 >
LINDA DIAMOND is the chief executive
officer of the Consortium on Reaching
Excellence in Education, in Berkeley, Calif.
She is a former public school teacher,
principal, director of K-12 instruction and
professional development, and senior policy
analyst for an education think tank. She
is also a co-author of Teaching Reading
Sourcebook, 2nd Edition (Arena, 2008);
Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures, 2nd
Edition (Academic Therapy Publications,
2008); and Vocabulary Handbook (Paul H.
Brookes, 2007). She can be reached at
What Really Matters
In Education: Compassion
By Carol Lach
The following is based on a speech the
author gave upon her retirement from the
Massachusetts education department in
doing the same thing on the last day of the job that they did on the first.
When I left teaching almost 30 years ago for the first time—I’ve since returned
twice—and began a career in publishing, this was the reason. I saw
the years stretching out ahead of me, locked in that same room with the
same students, and as much as I loved the work, this scared me. I wanted
a multidimensional career that would allow me to develop in my field and
continue to work with students without always, always being on the front
My vision of a great job to reach for? A master teacher leading a team of
three or four educators at different levels of experience and expertise—a chef
and her sous chefs—working together to oversee the learning of the same
group of students. Ideally, we not only would be responsible for cooking up
the curriculum, we’d also have the discretion to set the ebb and flow of our
Unfortunately, many in education who are reading this will protest that
education is, in fact, moving in the direction I describe. They might suggest,
for example, that we consider the whole new phenomenon of teacher-leaders
and teacherpreneurs—yes, that is a new buzzword. But look closely at these
roles, and you realize they are few and far between and last only briefly.
They give a teacher some time off to sit on a committee or lead a community
effort for a semester or two, while also being responsible for maintaining
most of the daily classroom duties.
The sad truth is we are scaring the great cooks away from education.
Teaching, as currently conceived, is a job that only the most profoundly dedicated
and self-abnegating or uncritical or uncreative would want to commit
to as their life’s work. You want high-quality education for your children?
You have to attract high-quality teachers.
The team-based model I have outlined might require investing more
money in teachers. But it would also free up a brave district to spend considerably
less on the fancy materials and attendant elaborate trainings.
Michael Pollan makes the point that we have outsourced the job of feeding
ourselves to corporations. We have done the same thing with learning.
There is magic in cooking, Pollan says, pointing out that the words “cook,”
“butcher,” and “priest” are equivalent in Greek, and that they share the root
word “magic.” Learning, true learning, is magical. And yet, teaching isn’t any
more mysterious or special than preparing good home cooking was decades
ago. And there are many people out there who can and are, in fact, aching
to do it. Many of them are already in the classroom, and others would be
attracted to the profession if they could truly dig in and make a difference.
Let’s free them up to do some real home cooking and see what magic they
PAULA STACEY is a writer, a developmental editor of books on K-12 education,
and a former teacher of every level from elementary school through college. She
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
s educators, our world was
upended by the tragedy at
Sandy Hook Elementary
School late last year. Our
response as a nation ranged
from proposing gun
legislation so nothing like it
would ever happen again
to dismissing the event
as another terrible
act of a disturbed
from a broken
home, or suffering
guns. It’s not about
Asperger’s. It’snot about
home, in 2007,
stabbed another student
to death. The assailant was
later found guilty of first-degree
murder in the case, meaning blame fell
totally on him, and the high school’s reputation
wasn’t tarnished. His lawyer said the
young man had suffered a lifetime of harassment
and bullying because of his mental
illness, which caused him to be fearful
and anxious. According to The Boston Globe,
as a grade-schooler he told a psychiatrist
that his three wishes were to win a million
dollars, have a lifetime supply of junk food,
and to stop being bullied.
So why am I telling you this? Because ...
It’s not about guns. It’s not about Asperg-
er’s. It’s not about bullying. It’s not about
legislation. You can’t legislate compassion.
What it’s really about is student sup-
port, community, and caring.
More than 40 years ago, one of my stu-
dents at Carver Junior High School in
Mississippi asked me, “Why should I care
about your math, if you don’t care about
I gave him some lame response, I’m
sure, but this question has stayed with
me all these years.
“Why should I care about your math if you
don’t care about me?” It’s even more important
today. We’ve become so far removed from
the kids with legislation, policies, data, grades,
improvement plans, assessments, professional
development, evaluations, and accountability
that we have little time to really care about
the kids, to even hear the question.
While I was at the state education depart-
ment, I had the privilege of getting to spend
a full day at Charlotte Murkland Elementary
School in Lowell, Mass., and to get to
know the school’s leadership team. Why do
you think this school is a model of a success-
bullying. It’s not about legislation.
... What it’s really about is
student support, community,
ful turnaround? Its story is about getting
“the right people on the bus,” as Jim Collins
says in his book Good to Great. This team
looked at the root causes of its failures, created
community, and developed a culture
where achievement and effort are recognized
and applauded. It’s a place where
kids who need help get it, where families
who need food get it (180 bags of groceries
are picked up every week). It’s a place
where every child is given the opportunity
to rise above the survival and safety levels
on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and
to be part of a community, to
gain self-esteem and more.
We continue to look
at symptoms of failure,
to look for silver
and following the
other examples of suc-
cess? Are we identifying
the root causes of poor performance
and then working to
change conditions that truly address
the issues our students face? Are we following
the lead of our vocational-technical
schools in helping kids find a niche, success
at something, a career that will give them a
future, that will motivate them to learn, to
finish high school and go beyond?
We need the right people on the bus, the
right people in the right seats on the bus.
We need to keep the students at the center
of our work. We need to remember that
education is not a one-size-fits-all product.
While standards and expectations are important,
we need to remember that not
all students will be successful with four
years of high school math. If I had been
required to achieve similar athletic standards
in physical education for four years
in high school, I never would have graduated.
If I hadn’t had teachers who dealt
with the bullies and a sister who listened
and understood me, I don’t know where
I’d be today.
As you continue your work, please don’t
lose sight of the students. Look for ways to
help streamline policies and regulations so
school staff members have time to encourage
their students’ talents, and find ways
to provide those students support, to be
mentors, and to have the time to care. n
CAROL LACH recently retired after working in
the Massachusetts Department of Elementary
and Secondary Education for 10 years, in the
agency’s offices of instructional technology; and
math, science, and technology/engineering. Her
teaching experience spans all levels (K-16) in
three states. She blogs at daythechalkboardfell.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 28, 2013
Education Week - August 28, 2013
Waiver States Under Scrutiny
Common Core: A Puzzle to Public
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Fla. Virtual School Faces Hard Times
Stacked Deck Seen in Growth of PBIS
News in Brief
Most Students Aren’t Ready for College, ACT Data Show
For Rural Teachers, Mentoring Support Is Just a Click Away
Philadelphia Gears to Open Schools After Aid Reprieve
Blogs of the Week
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: New Sites Designed to Help Choose Best Ed-Tech Tools
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Museums, Researchers Shifting To Online Science Ed. Outreach
Common Core Grinds Along Amid Michigan Debate
‘Course Choice’ Venture Gets Started in Louisiana
PAULA STACEY: The Best Education Diet? Real Food, Prepared Well
LINDA DIAMOND: The Cure for Common-Core Syndrome
CAROL LACH: What Really Matters In Education: Compassion
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JAMES H. NEHRING: Think Education Is Like Medicine? Think Again
Education Week - August 28, 2013