We want to send our kids off to school knowing that they'll get what they need to succeed: good texts and teachers, of course, but high standards and rules that aren't paper tigers as well. This is the era of accountability, and we're behind it, right?
Well, maybe. Talk to more than a few good teachers and they'll say everything's fine until they either get a little too creative or set rules firmly in stone. Then, the phone starts to ring.
Listen to the teacher on page 17. Frustrated by late homework, she and teachers on her team made a rule not to accept it. She informed parents of this at the school's open house. But the same crowd that had applauded her warning that she was a tough teacher, responded with silence. When low grades began to roll in, they complained.
More upsetting was the response from the principal. He backed the parents. The resulting "solution" left her and her colleagues demoralized.
Support from the corner office is crucial in any enterprise. It may be more so in schools, where teachers must answer to so many different individuals.
At Harvard University last week, a group of top teachers spoke about what helped them achieve good results. To a person, they cited their desire for the backing of principals and administrators - not to be irresponsible, but to have reasonable latitude in trying new approaches.
These teachers mentioned needs ranging from support for initiatives in the classroom to allowances for professional time that doesn't come at their own expense (see related story, page 16). It can mean, they say, all the difference in how the job gets done.
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