You talk about a long list of readiness characteristics in your district, but what about ed schools? You talk about a long list of readiness characteristics in your district, but what about ed schools?
In my area the 2 major ed schools focus on "big ideas" like diversity, social justice and being a change agent. They don't concern themselves with any practicalities, like how to teach anybody anything.
I surveyed the new teachers and the army of student teachers coming into our school over the last decade and they all report learning nothing about assessment, classroom management, cognitive or behavioral science, early reading/literacy, communicating with parents or indeed much of anything of a practical nature. They study Paulo Friere, Jonathan Kozol, Sylvia Ashton-Warner,* and so on. The content is nearly all theoretical and philosophical, nothing empirical, evidence-based or useful on the classroom level.
This is not all that unusual a situation. In many areas it is the district that teaches new teachers what to do and provides workshops and non-credit courses on balanced literacy, how to administer the Developmental Reading Assessment, do Writers Workshop and Guided Reading, and so on. The mandate for these practices comes not from the Ed schools but from the district level and from the department of education level higher up. I haven't seen any evidence that ed schools set the agenda; they seem to be responsive to what the education bureaucracy wants -- in many cases, ed school staff are bureaucrats as well, sometimes on assignment for a 2-5 year stint at an ed school, other times they hold double assignments. It's one big cabal running both the ed schools and senior management in the bureaucracy.
An even more cynical blogger might take away that by pushing these literacy skills down to parents' responsibilities, it leaves teachers free to give Writer's Workshop instead.
I find that many parents and private citizens do not know this, so I will point it out: teachers are not, in most jurisdictions, "free" to give or not give Writers Workshop, or Guided Reading, or whatever curriculum practice is the latest craze. Most districts are quite prescriptive and require teachers to comply with very specific guidelines -- what materials they may (and may not) use, what practices they MUST employ (Word Walls, Writers Workshop, Readers Workshop, Guided Reading, Shared Writing, and so on). They may be specifically forbidden to do other things (teach standard algorithms, teach systematic phonics, hold students accountable for spelling, meeting deadlines, completing assignments). Many districts have "literacy police" (even "numeracy police") who go around inspecting classrooms and monitoring compliance. Teachers have very little freedom in most districts to choose their own methods or materials. That has both positive and negative consequences.
The infatuation with most of the practices so often deplored here (and elsewhere) does not come from teaching staff but from higher up in the bureaucracy. Indeed, surveys have shown almost as great a disconnect between what teachers want and think effective vs. what administrators and bureaucrats want/believe as the Public Agenda study "Different Drummers" showed exists between ed school faculty and the public at large, including teachers. There is a great divide, but the power is largely on one side.
Being a successful "guerrilla instructivist" requires camouflage and using the opposition's terminology and jargon to describe things totally incongruent with the prevailing philosophy. One can generally assume ignorance of instructional matters, research and cognitive science on the part of school and district administration, so unless you wave red flags in front of them they will not notice the details of what you do as long as you appear assertively compliant.
What would we do without palisadesk (and redukudu & Paul B & Instructivist & Concerned ....)?
That is not a rhetorical question.
What these teachers do for children, families, and for their country goes far beyond guerilla instructivism. I was about to invoke the samizdat, but that's not quite right, is it? This is America; palisadesk has a right to speak her mind, although if she were to do so using her own name she would put her job at risk.
I've just asked Ed whether there is a historical precedent for this kind of 'inside reporting.' He says that during the Ancien Regime there were members of the court who, using a pseudonym, wrote about court intrigues and the like.
But that's all he could think of on the spur of the moment.
The writings of guerilla instructivists make me wonder whether the internet really is something new and different: whether the internet has a "democratizing" effect in realms that have been anything but democratic.
We will see.