Simplify.Remember when we were in elementary school and our teachers always told us to use the KISS method: Keep It Super Simple (or other variations). Many of us keep that in mind as we maneuver through our work and personal lives. Somewhere along the line, though, it becomes difficult to keep it simple.
In education we have seen many changes during the last 20 years and often those changes don't come with "and you can also STOP doing this." It seems that as new mandates arrive in education, we are only adding to our plates. We often talk about "doing more with less" and certainly try to make that work but it becomes more difficult. As curricula have developed and advanced and educational processes are researched to the nth degree, we have to take a step back and decide it is okay to focus on just a few things that can actually impact our students. We have to remember that we are all about the students in education.
As we talk about student learning and success, though, it is a simple process that we all too often decide to complicate.
- What are we teaching
- That is, what is happening in our classrooms
- What is the expected curriculum
- If we are using the State Standards, does our classroom instruction match up? We have gone through this with the Michigan Curriculum Framework and the Content Expectations previously
- What gaps do we have
- As we compare our taught curriculum to the expected, we have to fill in the gaps and ensure that we are teaching "the currculum"
- How are our students doing academically
- We have to look at our student performance: 1) on state assessments; 2) on nationally normed assessments; 3) on classroom performance (e.g. grades). Students shouldn't be just a number, but their performance can tell us something.
- What can we do to improve student performance
- We have to decide what to do with students who are succeeding, students who are struggling, and students who are failing. We have to believe that all students can learn and strive to make sure that happens.