Where Will You Put Your Energy?
I received an email from a teacher opposed to engaging in the PLC process at her school. She took the position that the concept represents an experiment and that she should not have to participate in experiments. Her rational is, "How do we know that this process works better than the old ways?" She suggested that she be allowed to continue to work in isolation and that the school use her students as a control group for the experiment.
Here is my response:
I would not allow a teacher to opt out of the PLC process under the guise that his or her students are going to serve as a control group. There is already abundant research that says the "old ways" of teachers working in isolation, following their own pacing, assessing what and how they want, and intervening (or not) dependent on their personal preferences are not effective. There is abundant research that says working collaboratively, having teams establish and implement a guaranteed curriculum, creating common assessments, and developing a schoolwide plan for intervention is in the best interests of students and leads to better results. We don’t need to conduct experiments in each of the schools in each of the 15,000 school districts in the United States before we act on what has already been clearly established as best practice. So, unless this teacher could present some clear and compelling research to support the old ways (which she can’t), she must join her colleagues in acting in the best interest of her students.
I also ask her to reflect on the results of the "old way" of schooling last year in the United States.
- For every 100 students who entered high school four years ago, 30 had dropped out before graduation. We rank 21st out of the 27 industrialized countries in terms of dropout rates. Those dropouts will earn 33 cents for every dollar a college graduate makes over their lifetime and 66 cents for every dollar a high school graduate will make. They will live a shorter life, they will be less employable in a volatile job market, and their children will have only a 1 in 17 chance of earning a college degree.
- Of the 100 students who entered high school, 47 will enter college. One-third of them will need remedial courses. Thirty percent will not return to their college for the second year. We rank near the bottom of industrialized countries in terms of college dropout rates.
- Throughout almost all of the second half of the 20th century, we ranked first in the world in terms of percentages of young adults (aged 25 to 34) with a college degree. By 1995 we had dropped to second. By 2008 we had dropped to 11th.
What the "old way" has done best is give us one of the highest dropout rates in the world, for both high school and college. Instead of this teacher wanting more evidence that the PLC process will be beneficial, she should provide some evidence to justify continuing with a process that has proven over time to be so ineffective.
My challenge to this teacher is this: I can show you the research in support of doing what you are being asked to do. In the absence of contradictory research and in the face of the evidence of the impact of the "old ways" on our students, how can a professional justify ignoring the evidence? It is time to put your energy into making our new process work rather than defending the status quo.