To the Editor:
In the Aug. 24, 2016, issue of Education Week, Marc F. Bernstein’s Commentary presented an excellent argument for recertifying teachers by giving teachers and their unions responsibility for implementing that process.
Bernstein accurately reviews the issues with reform, such as poor implementation by federal and state officials and requiring teachers to implement new standards without proper training. While his recommendation is wise, it is unlikely to have much support in the current political environment. However, his goal can be achieved on a district level through the cooperation of boards of education, administrators, teachers, and unions.
The Island Park School District on Long Island, N.Y., was able to avoid some of these issues through cooperation based upon trust and a shared belief in providing every child a sound education. The district’s administrative team, which I led as superintendent during the first decade of the century, agreed that teachers could not be expected to initiate new programs without proper professional development—and that development had to be more than monthly meetings or several one-day conference presentations.
We provided training both after school in accordance with our teachers'-union contract and during release time within the school day. In addition, we arranged for consultants to assist teachers in developing lessons and implementing classroom instruction. This required a significant financial investment supported by the board of education. Our investment of time and resources resulted in notable gains in student achievement based upon both local benchmark and state assessments.
As a result of these efforts, the changes became part of the institutional culture. Staff members who mastered the new curriculum became trainers for new teachers and those who were experiencing difficulty. Even with intensive support, not all teachers were able to meet our expectations. In those cases, administrators and union leaders cooperated to assist people so that they could leave with dignity.
While waiting for politicians to act responsibly, educators should act locally to implement needed change.
Adjunct Professor of Educational Leadership
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the September 21, 2016 edition of Education Week as District Effort Can Assist Teacher-Training Process