Their view: Teaching to the middle no longer acceptable

Colin Taylor, superintendent of San Jon schools, offers this view on students and learning:

Many times schools, teachers, administrators, parents, community members and others focus on things that have nothing to do with student learning.

You can have the most advanced technology, best school building, and cutting edge textbooks, but that doesn't mean student learning will improve.

What will improve student learning is what happens in the classroom.

As educators, we must ask four critical questions about our classrooms:

(1) What do we want students to know and be able to do? In other words, we should be pretty solid around what kids need to know in each subject area and each grade level before advancing to the next.

(2) How will we know when they have learned it? Our assessment of student learning needs to be accurate and mean something.

In other words, do our teacher assessments truly measure what students should know?

All too often I've seen students do extremely well in the classroom but their state test scores are low. This means there is a disparity between what we are asking of our students in the classroom and what they should know for state testing.

(3) How will we respond when they don't learn? Unfortunately, I think the typical answer has been we move on. This is no longer acceptable.

If a student struggles with concepts we need to re-teach and/or intervene in a meaningful way to bring that student to the level he/she should be.

Unfortunately, if this doesn't happen, students who struggle will quickly give up on school.

(4) How will we respond if students already know it? Unfortunately, I believe this one is rarely addressed.

In fact, I recently had an interviewee who responded to this question in an interview by saying, "good job." Wrong answer.

Students who already know the material need enrichment to take them to the next level. Not addressing the need to enrich students who already know the material does little to prepare them for future learning and leaves them pretty much bored with school.

In other words, teaching to the middle is no longer an acceptable practice. We must learn to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all students no matter what their evel.

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