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This policy discussion was centered around The Future of K-12 Education. The conversation started off with a general discussion of educational reform.  From that prompt, the participants seemed to touch on several pieces of the report of which we simply expanded upon.  Because they all hailed from different positions within the field of education, their perspectives were interesting.  Their initial focus was on the overemphasis of student testing and assessments.  Some participants said that there needed to be more of a portfolio of assessments  (thus a restructuring of high stakes testing) rather than a single test (ie. The Standards of Learning ,“SOL” in the Commonwealth of Virginia).  There needs to be an opportunity for the student’s to show growth.  The emphasis on “high stakes” testing did not allow for too much teacher creativity and was seen as punitive (meaning that if classes did not progress as expected, both the teachers and sometimes the students, were penalized) and not diagnostic.  In fact, some participants noted that some schools did not know what to do with testing results—how to improve in subjects that needed improvement.

One participant felt that society’s attitudes towards teachers and K-12 education needs to improve and be valued far more than it is.  It was noted that in other countries, teachers are regarded the same, if not higher, than doctors and lawyers.   By changing the attitudes towards teachers and K-12 education as a whole, teachers will demand more and students will produce more.

The final emphasis was on relationships: foster better relationships between students and teachers, teachers and administrators, teachers and parents, and teachers and their communities.  One participant specifically felt that if teachers had a better relationship with their students (truly caring for all students and not just the “good ones”) then students are more likely to want to perform their best for the teacher.  The group further expanded that teachers should receive more support from their administrators and feel as if they are a part of a team or family rather than out their on their own, and suffer consequences if their students did not perform.  This will contribute to their sense of community and will be motivated to work towards the common goal of student achievement simply because they want to and not just because they are financially motivated by something like merit pay.

The group really appeared to have enjoyed the discussion and they all said that they would be interested in future IF discussions.

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