To the Editor:
I have been following with interest the recent letters to the editor responding to Kim Chase’s Commentary “Understanding by Accident” (March 14, 2007). As many of the previous letter-writers also state, I was deeply dismayed that a publication of your caliber would print an essay that is so one-sided. I was also amazed that you did not bother to contact us, the school district offering the professional development, or allow us the opportunity to give a different viewpoint. We feel you showed disrespect to the dozens of teachers who attended with enthusiasm our first K-12 professional development in years.
As one educator said when she read Ms. Chase’s Commentary, “We can agree to disagree about Grant Wiggins’ presentation style. However, Understanding by Design is a pedagogical framework that helps us as educators identify the essential questions and plan for authentic performance tasks. I have yet to find the educator who will argue against the elements of Understanding by Design as good teaching.”
Motivated by Mr. Wiggins and his presentation over those three days, the district has since created Understanding by Design units across the curriculum that teachers are sharing. More continue to be created by teams of teachers who attended the training, and several have been purchased by the state of Mississippi for use there.
Professional development in our district is led by a teacher facilitator group, set up in recent years to meet individual teacher-group needs. This past June, as a result of how far our teacher-led process had taken curriculum development, we felt it was time to pull together K-12 for three days to unite the district around some common goals. Understanding by Design was chosen as a framework for planning and instruction. Mr. Wiggins spent half a day with all our administrators, and we sent many teachers to his Vermont training earlier in the year to ensure that the professional development for this large group would be meaningful to district teachers.
Most felt it was. Had you contacted us to find out whether the opinion expressed in the essay was universal, we would have been happy to share this and other information.
Superintendent of Schools
Burlington School District
A version of this article appeared in the May 02, 2007 edition of Education Week as Superintendent Reacts to Teacher’s Commentary