By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
School reform and restructuring is in full swing again this summer and in many districts will continue on into the fall and winter months. School improvement committees, parent advisory boards, administrator groups and boards of education are looking for answers. Staff developers, professional consultants, authors, conference presenters, and organizations are attempting to supply those answers.
Whoa! What's the rush? Is your school really ready to start looking for answers? Is that where your professional development team needs to begin? Maybe, before you begin the search for answers, it would be useful to make sure you've asked helpful questions. Consider the following:
To what degree are higher-level thinking skills currently being called for and used in your school? No, we're not asking what staff feel or say they are doing with higher-level thinking skills. We are asking what is really happening in your school. Have you taken a serious look at that?
Does your curriculum drive the assessment or does your assessment drive the curriculum? Is that the way you want it? Do you have a strong consensus on that? Do you want one?
How much time do students spend learning to answer questions? How much time do they spend learning to ask questions?
To what degree does actual classroom practice match up with your mission statement? Where are the gaps? Can staff actually state what the mission statement is? Can they articulate what they did today to promote it?
Is your school designed to promote the pursuit of knowledge, the use of knowledge, or the accumulation of knowledge? Does it matter?
Does your school promote increased independence as students increase in age and grade level? What data do you have to support your answer?
How would your school change if you viewed students as consumers and teachers as facilitators of the instructional process?
Who talks the most in your classrooms: students or teachers? What effect does that have on learning?
What currently exists in your school that nourishes and sustains the lifegiving qualities of human relationships?
Are your school decisions driven by the needs of students or the needs of adults? What evidence do you have to support that?
Do you have a research-based school? If so, what steps do you take to insure that teachers follow the current research findings on the issues of homework and rewards? Is your staff made aware of the harmful effects of rewards and the intrusion of homework into prime family time?
How is power distributed in your school and what effect does that have on each group?
Is studying several concepts in depth more valuable than covering more material superficially? Is less really more? Or is more, more? Have you had dialog on that issue in your school?
Do you really believe in resource development? Do you have a staff development budget that reflects that view? Does your staff have some say in how that money is spent?
Where does developing responsible students fit on your list of priorities? Do you have a solution seeking program in place to help students identify their choices and resulting outcomes and to create plans for improvement? Do you teach children how to make amends? Have the teachers been trained to implement this plan?
How would your school-reform effort be affected if you began by formulating questions rather than answers? What if you postponed looking for answers until you made sure you asked all the right questions?
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators. To sign up for it or obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your professional staff development needs, visit their website today: www.personalpowerpress.com.