In a continuing effort to improve PA Schools, the US Department of Education has approved the request for a waiver for the nation’s No Child Left Behind Act. Now, the state has the flexibility to direct funds where they are needed most. Academic achievement and career readiness are paramount for PA students, but the funds will also be directed towards tracking public school progress as well as support for administrators and teachers.
Starting in the 2013 school year, citizens will be able to easily access performance information on any public school using the “School Performance Profile.” The profile will post the progress of schools based on a variety of measurements of student performance. Our schools will also benefit from the “educator evaluation system”, which provides information on the effectiveness of PA teachers and provides support for the improvement of education instruction.
Transparency in the schools will no doubt help filter out some ineffective teaching methods and bring the instruction models that work into the forefront. Unfortunately, budget cuts (among other influences) may continue to impact the ability of our students to reach their fullest potential. For example, some arts and physical education classes have been dropping from the curriculum of many PA schools because of budget cuts. Philadelphia schools, specifically, have been suffering for some time now because of “insufficient” funds, causing multiple closures and the layoffs of many effective teachers. The new initiatives will help track progress and provide some support to PA teachers, but how can we best help the children who may be negatively affected by these changes? Expanding what we know about teaching methods and applying new strategies in the classroom, will give teachers an edge on helping their students rise to new challenges. Just because a program gets cut does not mean teachers cannot finds ways to weave parts of that program throughout the curriculum. There are a lot of ways to incorporate a program that has been cut. Art could be incorporated in language arts by using creative projects to explain literary concepts. Music could be incorporated into social studies by researching musical history or the cultural impact certain types of music have in specific regions. Students that play an instrument could play in class. Physical Education could be incorporated into math by developing a game with teams, calculating scores or completed passes and then go play! Until the political atmosphere recognizes the impact these programs have on our students’ achievement, PA teachers may need to think creatively and improvise.
College and workforce readiness is the goal for our graduates, so our teachers need to be able to apply what they learn in a lesson, with connections to real-life situations. For some teachers, technology may be what they need to develop those lessons. For others, learning how to set up a workshop or redesign the curriculum to differentiate more effectively may be a more immediate need. Learning to use new, effective tools to improve instruction are just a few of the ways teachers can continue their own educational development while having an immediate impact on their students.