Opinion
Professional Development Letter to the Editor

Successful Training Needs Buy-In From Teachers

May 15, 2012 1 min read
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To the Editor:

I agree with Tom Loveless (“Does the Common Core Matter?,” April 18, 2012) that the Common Core State Standards will not matter for the reasons he cites, especially as I review my own 50-plus years of experience with educational change initiatives.

I was the initiator of a number of curriculum-change programs in several school districts, resulting in many teachers being “professionally developed up one side and down the other,"as Loveless writes. The only efforts that were even partially successful were those that had teacher committees involved from the beginning, that provided ongoing professional development and teacher-to-teacher support over several years, and that were not forgotten once the next good idea or state requirement came along.

This is very difficult to do, especially now with limited funds for such work. The mistake is the same we see over and over and wonder why no one seems to learn from it: Top-down initiatives with little bottom-up buy-in from the very beginning are always going to fail. In this instance, we are asking many teachers to teach differently, which requires a heavy investment in professional development.

The common-core standards may be very exciting for some, but they are not for most classroom teachers because those teachers do not see any connection to their immediate, moment-to-moment efforts to make good decisions about their teaching. Unless we work with teachers to help them uncover how their teaching can be enhanced and made more effective by following the implications of the common core into the classroom, the standards will have no significant effect on student achievement.

James Lee

Instructor, Education Department

Saint Joseph’s University

Philadelphia, Pa.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 16, 2012 edition of Education Week as Successful Training Needs Buy-In From Teachers

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