Radical Idea #6: Rethink Teaching

Spent well, $100 million could give the entire profession a boost.

Radical Idea #6: Rethink Teaching

“Unlike most professions, teachers don’t get enough professional development, and the development they do get is in furtherance of learning how to use some textbook. We’re not an agrarian society anymore; we’re a postindustrial nation. And the thing that’s coming around the corner is going to have something to do with technology or things yet unimagined. We have to do everything in our power to make kids prepared for that. The question I often ask is whether or not teachers are prepared for it. I would establish urban think tanks for teachers — a dedicated space to think about public education and how to change it, to identify different approaches that teachers can bring back to their classrooms.”


Damian Jones, assistant principal at Francis W. Parker, a private school in Chicago

“I definitely wouldn’t try to do what we’re currently doing better. The old system is becoming so irrelevant to the way the world works. I would spend $100 million on freeing up educators — one day a week, maybe — to talk and figure out how to create something different, not just better; how to teach learning skills, not just content; and how to turn classrooms into laboratories, workshops, and places of performance. What’s killing us now is the standardization that’s happening in schools. God, that’s just what we need — that every kid in the country is going to learn the same thing.”

Will Richardson, cofounder of Powerful Learning Practice, a company that helps schools build online communities, and author of the book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms

“I would build an online professional-development platform for teachers. They could upload videos of their own practices and have them graded by their peers and experts against a series of rubrics. Then other teachers could log on and search for, say, group discussions and the best (or the worst) videos to watch and learn from. It’d be a tough sell for some teachers, but for those who don’t have access to mentors or who teach in remote locations, it’d be the best solution. We could also make the platform more social, so whenever teachers search for a topic, they’re served a random clip and asked to critique and grade it. Just being able to define what we mean by good teaching is highly contentious, but it’s a necessary step. If we’re going to help some random teacher in the middle of nowhere improve his or her practice, we have to define what good teaching looks like. We have to say, ‘Yeah, that’s a 1,’ or, ‘Yeah, that’s a 4.’ “

Dan Meyer, former math teacher; current PhD candidate at Stanford; and author of Dy/dan, a math-teaching blog

Radical Idea #10


“Let’s make teaching a year-round profession and expand the school year — not the 180 instructional days for students, but the time for teachers to work and plan together. We need more time for teachers to collaborate, so they’re not so isolated in their classrooms. And I would put instructional coaches in every school. They would go into classrooms with a shared research base on what good instruction is and they would coach teachers. So when you go to these schools, you’d see similar types of good teaching taking place.”

Fred Tempes, director of WestEd’s Comprehensive School Assistance Program

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