Having spent 20 years as a school administrator, I often think about what I would consider relevant and compelling in today’s funding climate. What issues would drive my search for a solution? What features would I look for in a software program? What questions would I ask a curriculum provider? Here are the rest of my burning issues and questions.
Continued from last Thursday’s post, Education Funding: A Case for Coherence, Part 1
Issue # 4: The ability to motivate and engage students in the learning process
The Silent Epidemic, Perspectives of High School Dropouts, published in March 2006 by Civic Enterprises in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, disputes the long held belief that the primary reason most students drop out of school is academic failure. The report concluded “that while some students drop out because of significant academic challenges, most dropouts are students who could have – and more importantly who believe they could have – succeeded in school. And while there are many reasons students leave education behind, “nearly half (47 percent) of the students surveyed said a major reason for dropping out was that classes were not interesting. These young people reported being bored and disengaged from their high school experience.”
- Is the solution academically challenging and based on world-class standards?
- Does it incorporate the cutting-edge hardware and software 21st century students demand and use ubiquitously outside of their classrooms?
Issue # 5: The ability to train teachers deeply and well on instructional solutions, providing time for reflective practice and feedback over time to ensure the fidelity of program implementation
Far too often sales professionials focus on the “buzz words” surrounding a funding initiative, sharing the “latest and greatest” features of their products and services. But today’s savvy administrator knows full well that the best instructional solution is only as good as the quality of its implementation – the depth of training and support provided over time to ensure fidelity of program deployment. There is compressed time for training and limited resources available to provide sufficient high-quality professional development for teachers and administrators in a district. Consequently, it makes good sense to be able to train deeply and well on a single solution capable of addressing the range of student abilities in a district, while building capacity in your teaching force.
- Does the software solution include a variety of state-of-the-art training options, face-to-face and virtual, that can be customized to meet the specific needs of your district?
- Can the solution be customized to your district’s time and personnel resources; and can it be seamlessly aligned to existing district core curricular, intervention, credit recovery, and ELL programs and strategies?
- Can professional development be offered 24/7/365 to accommodate teacher schedules and school calendars?
- Can professional development for teachers be data-driven and differentiated in the same manner instruction is data-driven and differentiated for students?
- Does your software solution offer support for Professional Learning Communities, encouraging collaboration and reflective practice?
Issue # 6: Automaticity of program features and ease of use to ensure teacher buy-in and support
Regardless of the size of the district, or the diversity of its student populations, all educators are feeling the pinch of the “new normal.” From escalating accountability standards to increased class size, teachers at all levels impacted by the effects of budget cuts and legislative mandates. When asked, a majority report feeling “overwhelmed” at the complexity of planning for the range of learning abilities they find in their classrooms. Research by Sally Reis at the University of Connecticut has confirmed that there may be as many as eight or nine different reading levels in the typical middle school classroom. In this context, managing and organizing for instruction becomes a daunting task without technology and its utility in assisting with data collection, data management, differentiation of instruction and instructional transparency.
- What data is does your software provide for instructional decision-making at the district level? At the campus level? At the classroom level?
- How often and how easily can this data be collected and discussed?
- Does the solution have an automated process for sharing data with district and campus leadership? With students, parents and other school district constituents?
- Does the product provide instructional transparency and the level of detail required to meet state and federal accountability requirements?
Enough said on my end, however, those of you living daily within the context of the “new normal” may have additional questions and ideas. I welcome your thoughts on funding in this education climate.