Article 31 asks
teachers to teach in fundamentally different ways that will result in students attaining
the higher-level skills needed for the 21st Century. It also asks teachers to attend to
their schools as wholes, rather than only their individual class-rooms. They are asked to
do this because student performance results from the compilation of the actions of the
whole school, rather than from the actions that occur only in individual classrooms. In
this broader context, educators, joined by parents and community partners, are asked to
analyze school-wide data about student performance, the teaching and organizational
practices, and the parent role that result in that level of performance. This is the first
step in information-based school improvement. Schools must operate as much more cohesive
organizations with agreed upon goals for students and decision-making and planning
processes that are shared within the school and with the wider community.
The skills, habits and behaviors
described above are very different than those exhibited in many schools. Article 31 and
SALT call for nothing short of fundamental change. For this change to occur, practitioners
need the resources, opportunity, and time to learn and apply the newly required practices.
High quality, effective professional development is on-going and part of the day-to-day
work of schools, rather than a series of unrelated, one-shot workshops.
Some progress has been made on these
fronts: The Professional Development Investment Fund, of Article 31, provided roughly
$840,000 in additional money for professional development during the 1997-98 school year.
These additional resources represent a good first step, but will need to be roughly
tripled in the future.
The Rhode Island Professional
Development and Certification Policy Consortium isproviding leadership in the development
of requirements for individual professionaldevelopment plans that will become a component
of renewable certification. Over time, individual plans should become a lever for making
professional development job-driven and embedded, rather than a potpourri of unrelated
The Rhode Island Board of Regents
and the Board of Governors for Higher Education have reestablished a Joint Committee on
School/College Articulation. The goal of this committee is to build a K-16 system in order
to strengthen teacher preparation, school improvement, and college-preparedness.
Reorienting teacher preparation so
that teachers emerge prepared to teach and work in new ways is an enormous opportunity. As
of early 1998, 22 percent of Rhode Islands teaching force was eligible to retire.
Filling these positions as they open with teachers prepared to meet the new demands being
placed on the profession will give the state a head start in equipping students for the
The lack of adequate time for
planning and professional development presents a very large obstacle to the school
improvement process. Members of RIDEs Field Service Teams consistently report that
time is one of the biggest barriers facing the schools and districts with which they work.
Rhode Island Carnegie School teachers (778 teachers in 15 schools) identified lack of
adequate professional development time, difficulties in obtaining release time for
planning and/or professional development, and lack of adequate time for planning and/or
implementation as their three biggest barriers to implementation in the 1996-97 school
year. Practitioners need more time for professional development during the academic year;
they also need to find ways to use the time they have differently and more effectively. We
need a 190 day year for the adults in schools.
"We need teachers who can experience themselves as
architects of creative learning. And they need the conditions in their work to make that
Arthur G. Wirth. (1992). Education
and Work for the Year 2000: Choices We Face. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, p. 28.
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