Today, IUFSD teachers are encouraged to “take risks.” 

Neither the student nor the parent must be informed that a risk is being taken; no plans to evaluate the results of teacher risk-taking are required; nor is the board informed. And, of course, it’s not the teacher taking the risk. It’s the student. Teachers have tenure and a union to protect them from risk.

There is no realm apart from public schools in which taking risks with other people’s children would be acceptable. At the university level, all research involving human subjects, including projects as benign as interviewing people about their experiences, must be vetted and approved by an Institutional Review Board. Even teaching autistic children grammar using a software program must undergo thorough review prior to implementation.

Yet here in IUFSD, teachers are expected to “take risks.” 

Below are Siegfried Engelmann’s principles for making changes to curriculum and teaching:

Principles for school boards to follow when authorizing changes to curriculum and teaching practices

1. Don’t adopt any teaching method or curriculum unless you have substantial reason to believe that it will result in improvement of student performance;
2. Don’t adopt any approach without making projections about student learning;
3. Don’t adopt any practice without monitoring it and comparing performance in the classroom with projections;
4. Don’t adopt an approach without having a back-up plan;
5. Don’t maintain practices that are obviously not working as planned;
6. Don’t blame parents, students, or other extraneous factors if the plan fails.

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Don’t adopt any teaching method or curriculum unless you have substantial reason to believe that it will result in improvement of student performance.

A good plan is to require the administration to show that the plan works on a small scale before using it across the board.

Even though failure in a small-scale tryout is more humane than failure in an entire school district, children should not be guinea pigs for mindless experiments that have little hope of working. The small-scale tryout is not to be a learning experience for the administration as it discovers facts that it should already know. Therefore, the board should limit the number of tryout programs that are permitted, and should establish contingencies for failure.

The board, however, should require the administration to contact successful teachers within the district and solicit their advice and guidance before installing any approach. (These are teachers who consistently produce results that are above the demographically predicted level.)

Don’t adopt any approach without making projections about student learning.

Unless the benefits of the approach can be readily measured in terms of student outcomes, and unless they are outcomes we are concerned with, the administration should not be permitted to adopt the approach.

Don’t adopt any practice without monitoring it and comparing performance in the classroom with projections.

Monitoring is necessary for the administration that wants the program to succeed. . . Weekly evaluations indicate whether the projected material is presented on schedule, whether the teachers need significant help, and whether they are faithfully following the program.

Don’t maintain practices that are obviously not working as planned, and don’t stick with failed plan.

Part of the initial plan should have a “pull-the-plug” criterion and a back-up plan. The criterion should be expressed in a way that permits some flexibility, but that requires an empathic response to kid problems. . . . What we don’t want the administrators to do is to leave students in the approach all year long and then at the end of the yea conclude that it was a bomb.

Don’t blame parents, kids, or other extraneous factors if the plan fails.

The only factor that affects the plan is whether the kids and the teacher are in attendance on a regular basis. Aside from the unusual situations, this is the only consideration that should be used to demur the results of the implementation. If the teaching failed, it was because the teaching failed, not because the parents didn’t get involved.

Adapted from: War Against the Schools’ Academic Child Abuse by Siegfried Engelmann | Halcyon House | Portland, Oregon 1992

AND SEE:
Super’s plan: replace college prep with “workplace” prep
Teacher-centered v. learner-centered classrooms 
“Fast trends”
Teachers “taking risks”
Project Follow-Through