I do a lot of work with schools on data-driven accountability issues. Before you immediately decide that I’m just another data huckster, I’ll point out now that my work with schools focuses on good ongoing, formative assessment for student progress monitoring purposes rather than on the stupid yearly summative autopsy data that most schools are spending WAY too much time on. Intelligent use of progress monitoring data related to key academic and other educational goals has been shown time and time again, in both high-quality research studies and in tens of thousands of schools and classrooms across the country, to have significant impacts on student learning outcomes. The most common complaint that I hear from teachers, however, is that they’re already pressed – they don’t have time to add another thing to their plate. Balderdash. Here are a few things that teachers can get rid of that will free up some valuable time.
Teachers work extremely hard. They’re some of the most caring, dedicated people I know. But, like most of us, they often don’t use the time that they have very effectively (or others don’t use their time very intelligently). If we truly care about student learning, we should be taking a critical look at teachers’ precious time and try to eliminate many of our low-yield practices.
You get my drift. The list probably could on for a while – each of you can think of other things that teachers could eliminate or do differently to free up valuable time for high-leverage instructional strategies (add them below as a comment!). So what could teachers do instead with the time they gain? Here are a few things:
In other words, they could do things that we know to have better instructional payoff than some of what teachers are doing now. Plus, there’s the very sobering list from Mike Schmoker’s newest book, Results Now, that reminds us that teachers often don’t do things they already know have high payoffs instructionally (from a study that did thousands of classroom observations):
As Schmoker notes, “such statistics point to how even fairly obvious actions could have an immediate and enormous impact on students and their levels of learning” (p. 18).
The phrase “work smarter not harder” is trite and often is used in a condescending manner. Many times, unfortunately, it also happens to be true.