To the Editor:
I should be reading over freshman writing assessments or completing progress reports, but I need to share some thoughts about recent educational issues.
I’ve been a teacher at Mount Desert Island High School since 1989. I’ve been through a lot of changes in curriculum and format. Over the past three years, as a member of the ninth-grade team, I have been closely involved in the hard work involved in our switch to a standards-based system.
Regardless of the time and effort demanded, I feel I am a better teacher than I’ve ever been in my career, more focused and able to communicate more clearly what is expected. Clear focus on shared standards makes it easier to differentiate and easier to discuss students’ skills and goals with them; my classes can be more rigorous and supportive at the same time because I can offer students challenges where appropriate and help students focus where they need the most practice and growth.
The current witch hunt atmosphere around the standards-based system is troubling to me, as no one seems to be talking about learning, about academic risk-taking, about students’ willingness to stretch and learn deeply.
The talk is about the points, the outward signs: grades, GPAs, class rank. In the panic about a change in a system that the people most expert in it have found to be flawed, the key reason for the system is getting lost. Have faith that students who pursue learning and excellence (not perfection), who take good academic risks and grow from them, who engage deeply in challenges will grow up to be successful, fulfilled adults, no matter their secondary GPA or post-secondary path.
In that process, have faith in the professionals hired to teach these students!
For many years, the Mount Desert Island community has been a place that values its teachers and supports deep learning, an attitude that has made teaching here rewarding and worthwhile. If that essential relationship is destroyed, it will be a great loss for the entire community.