More than 300 educators, lawmakers, and business leaders from throughout the state have spent a day in Jefferson City, attending a forum focusing on how Missouri can make the best proposal for a share of $4-billion in federal education money. The federal dollars are part of a program known as “Race to the Top.”
Governor Jay Nixon opened the day-long event, stressing the importance of education as part of the state’s overall economic picture.
“For Missouri’s economy to remain viable in the global marketplace and for Missouri’s children to keep pace with their peers around the world we have to dramatically ramp up the quality of the preparation and training we give them from pre-school through graduate school,” said Nixon to the gathering.
The forum heard from a number of educators, including Doug Reeves, founder of the Colorado-based Learning and Leadership Center. Reeves’ presentation touched on a number of ideas, including a suggestion that while we often fall back on what is known as a teaching “to do” list, educators should spend as much time or more on a “not to do” list.
“The first thing you have to do is to decide what you’re not going to do,” said Reeves in an interview with the Missourinet. “That’s why, I think, the initiative inventory is so important. You’ve got to see how schools are spending time, how faculty meetings spend time, how board meetings spend time and identify how many of things: A) are done deeply and; B) are related to student achievement.”
In Reeves’ view there is too much time spent on matters that do nothing to improve student achievement.
“Most schools spend way too much time writing school plans when there is not any evidence that a planning document is highly related to improved achievement,” said Reeves. “They need shorter plans, more focused plans. And the time that they save by not having very, very long documents is time that they then can invest in monitoring and implementing a few things.”
In short, Reeves believes good ideas will not be implemented unless teachers are given time to work with new ideas and to discard ideas that are not accomplishing anything.
Following presentations the attendees broke off into four groups to discuss four key themes: Academic standards and assessments, data systems that support instruction, recruiting and retaining great teachers and school leaders, and support for struggling or low-performing schools. The ideas reached at the Jefferson City conference will be studied by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), which will produce a final proposal to present to the U.S. Department of Education in mid-January.