Effective Instruction Is Paramount
"More can be done to improve education by improving the effectiveness of teachers than by any other single factor."
Paul Wright, Sandra Horn, and William Sanders
Think for a moment about your time in school. Can you identify a person who encouraged, supported, and challenged you to reach your goals? Many of us would identify our parents, but truth be told, it would be very easy for us to identify a teacher as well. It very easily could have been a third, seventh, or tenth grade teacher who inspired you, motivated you, and made you feel like you could accomplish what you desired. An effective teacher not only helps students realize their goals, but monitors the progress of all students so they can reach their true potential. An effective teacher also employs effective instructional strategies to help students increase their knowledge of a subject.
Countless studies have been completed over the past 15 or more years that focused on teacher effectiveness and student learning. All of them have reached the same conclusion: effective instruction is the single most important factor in increasing student achievement. Students who have highly skilled teachers employing effective instructional strategies will reach higher levels of expected achievement. Simply put, the single greatest influence on student achievement is the classroom teacher. If we know how much a teacher can influence student achievement, what is it that we do to ensure our teaching staff has the opportunity to work to improve their own knowledge and expertise in classroom teaching strategies?
As a part of acting in a way that matches our foundational beliefs, the District is providing time for teachers to expand and to strengthen their working knowledge of classroom instruction. We recognize that it is critically important that teachers be given the opportunity and time to work in teams to develop effective teaching strategies that will meet the needs of our constantly changing student population. No longer can teacher learning be "just-in-time," but rather learning needs to be consistent, ongoing, and job embedded. Without these key pieces, teacher learning and professional growth would not be continuous, nor would we be able to reach the District goal of having 90% of all students proficient on local, state, and national assessments in all areas by 2013. Our staff now focus on how to increase the level of student engagement in a class, design a lesson together that promotes effective questioning strategies, adjust lesson plans to incorporate appropriate scaffolding of knowledge, share results of student work to see if learning targets have been met, and many other topics.
This refocusing of the work our teaching staff is doing does not come without challenges. We all understand the hard framework we are establishing for the work of today and tomorrow. We also understand that there will be numerous challenges as we increase our working knowledge of instruction and reach our achievement goals. However, in working together we can achieve more than working apart. Our work is more intentional around instructional strategies and student learning. Everyone recognizes the need to grow and meet the goals we have established. We also understand the consequences of not reaching our goals. After all, effective instruction is paramount.