Okay or Not Okay? Your Thoughts Please!

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In September we asked Bright Futures readers whether they had read three documents with major implications for middle level education in Maine and beyond. We’re interested in hearing your thoughts about the results. To paraphrase our colleague Jill Spencer, What in the data confirmed your thoughts?  What was interesting? What was surprising? What was disturbing?

Question #1 – “How recently have you read This We Believe?  This is the most widely read description and prescription of what constitutes effective middle programs and practices based on over 3000 research studies over 30 years published by AMLE. Thoughts?

Question #2 –  “How recently have you read “Bright Futures”, the report of Maine’s Commission on Middle Level Education? The Commission. This report lays out the state of middle level education in Maine along with recommendations to the Maine Department of Education and the field for educating all of Maine’s 10 to 15 year olds. Thoughts?

Question #3 – Have you read Education Evolving: Maine’s Plan for Putting Learners First” released in 2012.  It sets out objectives and action steps for building an education system in Maine that meets the needs of all learners. At its core is the middle level belief in developmentally appropriate, student centered teaching and learning. For more information and a PDF of the Key Document visit the MDOE website. Thoughts?

So what are your thoughts???

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7 Responses to “Okay or Not Okay? Your Thoughts Please!”

  1. Ed Brazee (@edbrazee) Says:

    Not okay. For middle level educators these three key documents should be open on our desks or on our devices everyday. Sounds like an excellent opportunity for a book study by teams or full school faculties. When we make daily decisions about teaching and learning, these are the documents we should pay attention to. Definitely not okay!

  2. Chris Toy Says:

    Thanks for weighing in Ed! I was somewhat surprised by the results. I know folks are busy. That being noted, I wonder how we would feel if medical professionals we depended on for care our loved ones were not up to date on both the classic and the newest literature in their specialities. On a lighter note, what percent of us with digital devices older than 5 years feel a bit behind the times?

  3. NancyEH Says:

    What you all believe are crucial documents – because that’s your specialty – are probably much less so in actual schools in which the principal, superintendent and school board each has her/his own idea about what’s cutting edge.

    Teachers have just so much time/energy and are being pulled in so many directions when asked/required/expected to address so many different problems that they simply don’t have time for everything.

    The Department of Ed’s multiple priorities – Common Core, standards-based education, proficiency-based education, student-centered learning, NECAPs, AYP and all those other terms – aren’t even being spoken about much at the classroom level because there just isn’t time. Add to that charter schools, shrinking school revenues, being blamed for societal woes and worries about their own professional futures as student populations decline and I think it becomes hard for teachers to take much of anything that’s supposed to change the system seriously at this point: “Yeah, been there, done that; let us know how it’s going in 5 years.”

  4. Mark Davis Says:

    While the “never” responses” are troubling. I think you guys may be reading too much into the responses that are essentially, “not recently”. It is quite possible that a teacher has spent time digging beyond those documents, reading more targeted content. Simply rereading those documents is a bit of a cop out and is way too easy. They all invite deeper research that will likely prevent the rereading of the documents on such a short time schedule. I have read all of the documents, but haven’t read the first two recently. Still, I know them quite well, and am digging deeper.

    I may be wrong about this, but please consider that I may be right and be careful not to jump to errant conclusions.

  5. Chris Toy Says:

    First of all, thank you, thank you for responding! I appreciate that it takes additional time to read AND even more time and thought to respond. Nancy, I agree that politics and too many divergent agendas are overwhelming our schools. What prompted my original survey questions was some feedback Jill Spencer and I received upon assigning these readings in a graduate class. Around 1/3 of them hadn’t heard of or read at least one of the three. After reading and processing them together, virtually all of the 27 students wrote in their reflections that these should be required reading for educators, even though they had some serious questions and concerns about some of what they read. Of course, we loved that not everyone agreed with everything. It made for interesting converstions! As for specialties…guilty as charged! We’re blogging about middle level. I can feel a conversation coming on about what we feel would be “the one must read” in middle level education!

    Oh, and I agree with Mark and Ed that the “Never” response for TWB is troubling…It should be required reading in Middle Level 101….hey, is there a Middle Level 101???

  6. Julie Gardner Says:

    Not knowing about the documents is a familiar story…if it weren’t for graduate classes I’ve taken or a principal who has us work with these documents during faculty meetings and grade level team meetings, I may not know about them either. Being familiar with them has changed how I teach for the better. There’s a responsibility for those in the know to share these with other middle level people; and hopefully, those in the know are school leaders who provide time for their teachers to work with these documents. Yes, there are other topics that also need addressing…but it’s possible to address more than one of these at a time. I know, because I’ve seen it done.

  7. Argy Nestor Says:

    I had a superintendent (after many years in a leadership role) give the following message on an opening day of school:
    “It is time that we all get on the same train to go in the same direction. We don’t all need to be in the same car but it is time we are on the same train”! It is easy to agree with this philosophy. I don’t think this happens easily nor successfully by teachers, school leaders, state policy, national standards or by any other group independently. We talk about 21st century skills for students but what about teachers? I know the reality of teachers’ schedules, and appreciate the administrators who attempt to guide direction in their schools, and I certainly have a different view now about state and national mandates. My question is: when are we going to work smarter and utilize technology, collaboration, and depend on each other to move forward putting the research in place that each school community believes is the best mode for students? Perhaps if a school community takes one report at a time, goes deeper and wider, and creates a plan that integrates the best components for their students, it would be a step forward. Ultimately its the students who are winners (or not).
    ~Argy

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