To the Editor:
The professional development at Jonas Clarke Middle School described in “Mass. District Strives for Teacher Learning System” (Education Week, Nov. 10, 2010) implies a new and unique method for the improvement of instruction. This also describes the organization system used at the Franklin School in the same district from 1957 until the school was closed in 1983 due to building age and declining enrollment in the district.
Ironically, the Franklin School (now converted to housing) was located adjacent to Clarke Junior High School. While Clarke reflected the more traditional high school practices, Franklin had an innovative school organization consisting of multiage, nongraded teams. That format requires teachers to work together, sharing the individual expertise of each teacher to benefit all children.
Each teaching team met for an hour daily and on Thursday afternoons to study their children’s work and to develop teaching plans. Weekly faculty meetings provided input on teaching practices useful to the entire staff and allowed teacher discussion time. Franklin teachers found this environment inspiring and often worked so hard that I, as the school’s fortunate principal during the 1970s, actually had to tell teachers to relax.
One measure of this effort is that on a survey of sick days taken by teachers in each school in the Lexington district, we had the lowest number. However, we had the highest number of professional days taken, for which I am partially responsible since I helped arrange many of these days.
Regardless of whether we call it professional learning communities, learning system, or team teaching, it is clear that when teachers work collaboratively the result is a more effective organization that benefits both students and teachers.
Rediscovering our past, Clarke’s current professional-development program resembles that practiced at Franklin decades ago. Our historical Revolution began in Lexington; may the news of collaboration continue to ring!
Barbara Nelson Pavan
Franklin School, Lexington, Mass. Valley Forge, Pa.