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Education Reform Begins With Teachers

Barbara Vacarr, PhD's picture
Office of the President
Education Reform Begins With Teachers


In Vermont, we have an unprecedented opening for driving real change in education policy.  Our Governor, the Secretary of Education, school boards and administrators are deeply engaged in conversations that demonstrate a historic commitment to reform.

We know, however, that the transformation of public education does not begin in the conference rooms of policymakers.  It begins today - right now - with the work that goes on in the classrooms of the teachers of Vermont. Despite our grandest ideas, teachers are on the frontlines every day and have the direct experience of what educating our children looks like on the ground. To drive meaningful policy change, we must create structures to include teachers in this dialogue.

We must also provide teachers with the ongoing mentoring and support to implement policy and bring it to life in the classroom.  The time to do this is now.  By partnering with Vermont school districts, I believe that Vermont’s institutions of higher education can and must play an active role in this transformation.

Goddard College has formed a new educational partnership with the Franklin Central Supervisory Union District to provide up to 20 district teachers with master’s-level professional development. The coursework is based on the inquiry-based, learner-centered model that is the hallmark of the progressive pedagogy, the principles on which Goddard was founded. 

Even in the information age of today, we still have much to learn from the progressive model.   The progressive movement began in the late 19th century as a response to growing dissatisfaction with a curriculum highly differentiated across social classes, where the schoolhouse provided on the one hand a training ground for factory workers and on the other classical preparation for university-bound elite.

It sought to both democratize and enhance the textbook learning model with cross-disciplinary, highly personalized, hands-on experiences that placed the learner at the center of the learning process.  By integrating local community service projects and entrepreneurship into the daily curriculum, it stressed life-long learning, social responsibility and action over rote knowledge, memorization and repetition.

With the Vermont’s adoption of the Common Core Curriculum Standards, public school educators face the challenge of incorporating knowledge and performance-based standards into student learning.  Goddard’s EDU Program integrates these standards into an effective pedagogy that, at its core, connects students to the context of their lives. 

In my view, good teaching is really about helping learners frame good questions.  If our teaching is focused only on providing content, students will use it until it is no longer relevant.  But if we teach them how to find and frame critical and relevant questions to their own experiences, then we cultivate understanding, true learning, and ultimately an intelligent thinking citizenry.

Educators will experience these tenets firsthand through their Goddard coursework.  The program also aims to position teachers to be catalysts and facilitators in the transformation of our public school model, because teachers and teaching itself is central to the solution.  Let’s bring teachers into this conversation.


Submitted by Penny Cahill (not verified) on
I would like to be part of this conversation group.

Submitted by Bruce E Brody Ph.D. (not verified) on
I received my MA from Goddard sometime in the early 1970's. I just started looking at your web site and found that it seems that there is no information about the Port Townsend or Portland program. I may have overlooked it or it is not prominent on the site. Perhaps you want to have to someone take a look and remedy the site. I know that you are interested in new students. The North West seems to have a similar atmosphere as was present in the 1960's and 1970's and Goddard would seem to gain some students here. Thanks, Bruce

Submitted by Theodore A. Hoppe (not verified) on
Vacarr writes about "transformation of public education" as if every country in the world wasn't already trying to reform it. This is not a process that needs further discussion. What is needed is an understanding that education is a "complex adaptive system," where the sum of its parts are greater than the whole. The challenge in education is not simply in teaching children, it's in how we fund education and in getting the results that the taxxpayers are paying for. If teachers were the answer to reforming education we might ask, "Why did they let it break?" And let's not deceive ourselves, education is indeed broken. I would also challenge the assertion that "teachers and teaching itself is central to the solution." To often, teachers are the problem, they resist change and cling to outdated methods or just lack the skills that are needed to teach todays youth. We need to form new schools, not just reform the schools we have. We need to be training students for the world they will be a part of, not the one we know. That world includes technology. What teachers are advocating for "flipping the classroom?" "Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is most commonly being done using teacher-created videos that students view outside of class time. It is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom, and reverse teaching." While there are some great teachers that are providing innovative ideas. But simply flipping the classroom will not change the funding model. Vermont currently spends $14,000 per pupil. This is not sustainable moving forward. In this one district in North Carolina they are educating student for $7,500 per pupil, while increasing attedance, graduation rates and test scores. Finally, we need to admit that students are currently turned off to education. Children are by their nature learners but we are not letting them learn. They are growing up in exciting times and we are asking them to sit quietly in classes and listen, while teachers teach. And when they cannot we blame them, shame them, and drug them, Let’s bring teachers into this conversation.

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