October 23, 2014
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Giving teachers time to teach

To the Editor:

Matt Bower’s Aug. 19 Beacon article, “Schools approve revised $162.6 million budget,” describes the Warwick School Committee’s concern about low math and reading NECAP test scores. Committee member Eugene Nadeau said, “No teacher in the school department is responsible for students not learning the subjects – They’ve been hit with mandates year after year that take hours away from teaching students, which is their primary focus.” 

In today’s complex world, the demands made upon Warwick’s public school teachers in their private and public lives are enormous. Ways have to be found to reduce these demands and allow these teachers to do what they are trained to do, interact with their students and teach well thought-out lessons.

Teachers do not have the time to create, write and implement detailed daily lessons. A better way to go would be to use computer technology to store and print out the daily lessons to be taught in reading and math. These lessons would be created (or updated) and computerized during the summer months by the Rhode Island Department of Education in conjunction with the professional staff in the Warwick school system.   

Each daily lesson would match the curriculum and each printout would include the lesson plan, the materials needed for the lesson and suggestions on how to teach the lesson. Printouts of student reading materials would be tailored to meet the needs of each student. Drill and testing assignments would be corrected in class by computer and provide immediate feedback to each student. This would be highly motivating for the students and provide teachers with more time to teach and review each lesson. Homework assignments and supplementary materials would be provided online with many opportunities for after-school teacher/student/

parent interactions. If the curriculum changes, only the lessons involved would have to be updated.  These computer lessons would always be up-to-date and parents, teachers, school administrators, business leaders, labor leaders, elected public officials and the media would have computer access to the daily math and reading lessons being taught in each public school classroom. Input from these stakeholders would be invaluable. However, the Warwick School Committee would have the final say in all school matters. 

All grade level teachers of each subject would begin with lesson 1 and teach each succeeding lesson in order during the year. Doing this would allow for coordinated large group instruction in each subject area when needed and make sure that all students receive instruction in all the required grade level skills. 

To provide remedial or enrichment programs to needy students, the school day should be extended by 45 minutes. Outstanding retired teachers should be hired on a per diem basis to implement these programs during this extended period and provide parents and teachers with online updates of each student’s progress.

Because teachers in each subject area would be using the same basic daily lesson plans, teachers would be evaluated based on how well they teach these lessons and not on their students’ NECAP test scores or on time-consuming, teacher-prepared, work-related portfolios. In a short period of time, new teachers and weak teachers would become confident in their abilities to teach the skills contained in each daily lesson.

If a teacher is absent, the substitute could easily follow these required computer generated lessons, and, if a child is out sick for a period of time or is being home schooled, these computerized lessons would allow for successful home schooling in math and reading that would exactly match the  lessons being taught in school.     

All children have the ability to learn. They just have to be given the opportunity to learn on a day-to-day basis. Organized learning begins when a teacher teaches a lesson.

 

Kenneth Berwick

Smithfield


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