In the 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, it was revealed, according to the New York Times, that
about 40 percent of the teachers and parents surveyed said they were pessimistic that levels of student achievement would increase in the coming years, despite the focus on test scores as a primary measure of quality of a teacher’s work. – New York Times, March 7, 2012
If, as the writers of Mission Possible state, the inability to achieve one’s job at the highest level is one of the greatest sources of low teacher morale, than how do we give teachers the tools they need to help students improve? Why do we, as Americans, treat teaching so much differently than other professions? I believe it’s because many of us don’t understand how difficult it is to prepare each individual lesson, let alone attempt to convey that lesson to children of varying skill sets and learning styles. I know that before I started homeschooling my kids I had no idea how much prep time went into each subject. We think of doctors as miracle workers, but what we don’t grasp is that in many ways, so is a good teacher – one who can capture the attention of a classroom full of squirmy six-year-olds and motivate them to accomplish more than they thought possible.
Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia, the founders of the Success Academy, a chain of charters schools in New York State, operate their schools on the philosophy that it’s not about the kids,it’s all about the adults.
Achieving excellence isn’t about the students. It’s about the grown-ups. When grown-ups are running on all cylinders, they bring the kids along for the swift, exhilarating ride. – Mission Possible, page 37
The teachers at Success Academy are given two to three periods a day to prepare and practice lessons, including working with other teachers and the school’s leadership team. They videotape lessons and debrief with their peers. Principals spend a great deal of their day circulating in classrooms and offering suggestions to teachers on ways they can improve. Teachers are treated as the valuable resources that they are, and follow the idea that we are never done learning.
We believe it’s hypocritical to expect the children to learn and grow by leaps and bounds while not expecting the adults to grow and expand their repertoire just as much and just as fast. – Mission Impossible, page 32
Success Academy believes that parental participation is also very important to a scholar’s success (students are called scholars). Parents are expected to read at home with their child, monitor homework, and stay in close contact with the classroom teacher and the school. Teachers give out business cards with their cell phone number and also have the phone numbers for the parents of all their students. Parents are also expected to make sure their child attends any extra schooling they may require in order to succeed, including an extra hour after school and even Saturday school if necessary.
Rigor is another building block of Success Academy. But what is rigor? According to Teaching What Matters Most: Standards and Strategies for Raising Student Achievement by Richard W. Strong, Harvey F. Silver and Matthew J. Perini, ASCD, 2001
Rigor is the goal of helping students develop the capacity to understand content that is complex, ambiguous, provocative, and personally or emotionally challenging.
Success Academy applies rigor through their belief that school should be interesting and challenging. Scholars read carefully chosen books, often above their grade level – books that challenge both their reading comprehension and their critical thinking skills. Scholars spend up to an hour and a half in reading and the same in writing every single day. Teachers and leadership are constantly re-evaluating and raising the bar to test the limits of what their students are capable.
This book is unique in that it also contains a DVD with videotaped lessons from various classrooms throughout the Success Academy system.
I highly recommend this book as a starting point for discussion for anyone who is concerned about the state of education in our country.
You can find out more about the book by visiting http://readmissionpossible.com
The writers of Mission Possible have been gracious enough to offer a copy to one of my lucky readers!! Giveaway begins 12:01 PT 7/30/12 and ends 11:59 p.m. 8/13/12. Open to US residents age 18 and older.
To enter to win a copy of the book, please leave a comment below and let me know what you think the biggest problem is in American education and also if you have a suggestion on what we can do to help make it better.
This is a compensated post. All opinions are 100% my own.