Good Intentions Are Not Enough In Education

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I have been a teacher for 37 years and throughout my career I have developed a huge appreciation for the importance of hard work, persistence and focus. It is incredible what individuals or groups can accomplish through consistent and steadfast effort, regardless of the task.  

Along with working harder, working smarter is also required to achieve the best outcomes possible. Working smarter typically entails looking to others for new ideas and inspiration. As teachers, we are responsible for creating a positive environment that encourages not only hard work but also open mindedness and collaboration to assure that our students reach their full potential.

Given the importance of creating a positive and collaborative environment for learning and success, it is puzzling and disheartening to see some of the education reform policies currently emanating from many state capitals, including Nashville. A number of these policies, such as changes to licensure and tenure, are based on the assumption that threats and punitive actions directed at teachers will somehow lead to higher test scores and better schools. It is evident that any improvement plan built on “sticks” is doomed from the beginning. For any plan to succeed it must be built on positive actions that bring people together. This assertion is not based on idealism but on the reality of the interconnected world that we live in today. 

We can all agree that our schools need reform. Policy makers have the right, and duty, to demand improvement from all aspects of public education, including teacher quality and accountability. Our students deserve a world-class education and our country’s economic future depends on it. However, the missing piece in education reform is meaningful cooperation among all stakeholders including teachers, administrators and policy makers. Success can only be achieved by uniting the efforts of knowledgeable, creative and passionate participants around common goals. Effective collaboration is behind the innovation that we see in various endeavors and fields today. It can also be the driving force in creating better schools. For policies to be successful they will need buy-in from everyone, including teachers.

I believe that accountability and collaboration are both important components of education reform. Economists define individual experience, knowledge and skills as “human capital.” Human capital is an important factor in the education reform conversation as every educator has room for improvement. But equally important is the concept of “social capital” or the relationships that exist among teachers and administrators. The best way to increase social capital is through meaningful and intentional collaboration. The collective knowledge of the teachers in our schools and districts is an incredible resource that all educators need to access. If we want to improve and gain new instructional skills, we are surrounded by colleagues who have the expertise to help. Teachers should not be waiting for the education establishment to mandate our efforts toward reform and improvement while we passively stand by. We should be responsible for not only improving our own practice but also for the development of collaborative efforts to improve the teaching of our colleagues. It is the charge of teachers, administrators and policy makers to develop an ecosystem that facilitates cooperation, collaboration and innovation. For education reform to advance and for our students to flourish, we need to set a standard that encourages growth in both human and social capital in our schools. 

I have no doubt that education policy makers have good intentions. We all want better schools for our students. However, good intentions are not enough. To truly and permanently transform our schools we need enlightened policies to enable effective actions that will result in the ultimate goal: great schools for all students. We have to work harder and smarter. When it comes to policy all stakeholders, including teachers, must have a place at the table. Together we need to pursue pragmatic and nonpartisan solutions to the myriad of challenges related to education reform. Otherwise valuable time, money and energy will be wasted and students will be denied the best education possible to which they are entitled.

Curtis Tipton is a teacher with Hamblen County Schools and is the author of the book Teacher To Teacher: Vision. Connection. Renewal.

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

Not Everything Has Been Done To Save Hutcheson

I am a resident of Walker County and I have a personal belief that a hospital ranks equal to other basic services a community should offer (like police, fire, emergency services, school systems, government, etc.). I am not privy to all the management and financial conundrums concerning the feasibility of maintaining and growing Hutcheson, and as a private citizen I don’t believe ... (click for more)

Additions And Improvements At Camp Jordan Arena Coming Soon

Additions and improvements are coming to Camp Jordan Arena in the near future. At the Thursday night meeting of the East Ridge city council, approval was given for buying new playground equipment. It will come from Gametime, a locally-based company. The VP of Marketing lives in East Ridge and made a proposal to set up the playground at Camp Jordan so his company could use it for ... (click for more)

Teenager Killed In ATV Accident Thursday Night

Damon Lee Jones, 15, was killed Thursday night in an ATV accident in Walker County. It was reported he was riding with a 17-year old, when they tried to enter a church parking lot, but ran into a cable barrier. The accident happened on Dunwoody Road in LaFayette. The other rider, identified as Timothy J. Wallin, was not injured.   (click for more)

Freeman-Led Owls Whip Cleveland, 30-14, To Win 5-AAA Title

Junior Rashun Freeman's stunning versatility stole the show Friday night. Freeman caught a touchdown pass, returned a punt for a second score and had one of three Ooltewah interceptions as the fourth-ranked Owls whipped Cleveland, 30-14, to win the District 5-AAA championship in front of a near-capacity crowd at James N. Monroe Stadium. “I practice hard and that shows ... (click for more)

Baylor Beats Father Ryan For D-II State Volleyball Title

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Friday was a magical day for the Baylor Lady Red Raider volleyball team. Facing arch-rival Father Ryan for the fourth time this season, Baylor evened the score at 2-2, but the last time at Siegel High School was the sweetest as it came in the championship match of the D-II Class AA state tournament. Father Ryan had a huge group of students in its ... (click for more)