To the Editor:
In this, my 20th year as a school superintendent, I continue to see the rhetoric of “reformers” to include “choice,” “charters,” “vouchers,” “merit pay,” and other brief descriptors of how to turn around failing schools. But, in the Commentary “Investing in Turnaround That Endures” (Nov. 2, 2011), the Jefferson County, Ky., public school system has it right.
Passing up quick actions and quick fixes (though I understand the frustration with long-failed schools in some locales), these Kentucky schools are busy fixing for the long haul: building school cultures on the belief that teaching is a collaborative rather than individual practice, creating teachers who take collective ownership of the fact that Johnny or Susan doesn’t get it and fixing that! Time for teacher collaboration focused on hard questions and increased pedagogical and content knowledge; ongoing focus on formative assessment to identify student strengths and weaknesses for acceleration and remediation; and the inclusion of additional learning support in the school day as the result of scheduling to better personalize learning are all what I’ve come to know as truly “investing” in our schools’ long-term fix.
Gary S. Mathews
Newton County School District
A version of this article appeared in the December 15, 2011 edition of Education Week as Jefferson County, Ky., ‘Fixing for Long Haul’