Friday, March 18, 2011

Richard Elmore and the Missing Hours

From Three Thousand Missing Hours, by Richard Elmore:

One of the most remarkable things about American classrooms is how little real teaching goes on there. Over the past five years or so, I have spent at least three or four days a month in schools studying the relationship between classroom practice and school organization. I observe classrooms at all levels—primary, middle, and secondary grades—and in all subjects. One of the most striking patterns to emerge is that teachers spend a great deal of classroom time getting ready to teach, reviewing and reteaching things that have already been taught, giving instructions to students, overseeing student seatwork, orchestrating administrative tasks, listening to announcements on the intercom, or presiding over dead air—and relatively little time actually teaching new content.

... Recent research shows that low-quality teaching results in disengagement by students.

... In all my hours in the classroom, I have yet to see a student refuse to engage in meaningful academic work. A good deal of what American students are asked to do with their time in school, however, does not meet this standard.

... I am increasingly persuaded that the use of time in classrooms is a measure of the respect adults have for the role of learning in the lives of students. I have also become aware of how profoundly disrespectful schools, and the people who work in them, are of the time and effort they extract from the lives of students and their families, without regard to the value this time adds to students’ learning and development. The way schools use time is a product of many choices: the way the curriculum is designed, the way the school day is organized, the demands of testing on instructional time, the daily routines that teachers establish in their classrooms, and the attention, or lack thereof, to students’ classroom experiences by adults in schools. It would be an enormous step forward if adults in schools treated the time that children and their families give to schools as a precious gift rather than an entitlement. The most valuable resource that schools have is the largely unexploited capacity of students to engage in high-level learning. It is the responsibility of adults in schools to make the best possible use of this resource.

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