There it was, a glimmer of hope, tucked in the fourth paragraph of yet another news article about the pandemic’s impact on student learning.
The article, published November 11 in Tucson’s local newspaper, The Arizona Daily Star, referenced Harvard and Stanford’s Education Recovery Scorecard which found that most Tucson-area school districts showed lower levels of academic performance in reading and math than other schools throughout the nation in grades 3-8. I have lived and worked in Tucson for many years. Historically, our students struggle with standardized testing for a myriad of reasons that point in part to the southwest’s demographics, socioeconomics profile, and diverse culture. The pandemic adds yet another obstacle – one that I believe educators can overcome if they muster their professional tools and re-focus their efforts on how students learn.
The ray of hope? Teacher Clarity.
The news article points out that one school district in Pima County bucked the statistics and showed learning gains in both reading and math during the pandemic. According to the article, students in the Tanque Verde School District gained an additional four months of learning in reading and about one month in math compared to their scores before the pandemic. This placed them about a year ahead of the national average in math and six months ahead in reading (https://educationrecoveryscorecard.org/).
Tanque Verde Superintendent Scott Hagerman is quoted in the article and attributes the academic success to having a governing board that focused its meetings on student engagement. “The next part of it,” he said, “was really working on something called teacher clarity, which is making sure you know exactly what you want your kids to be able to do, and you make sure that the students have that same information.” He added that it has been vital to zero in on a curriculum that is “challenging and clear while not being overwhelming and boring.”
The concept of teacher clarity is a key component in Curriculum Trak mapping efforts. Every training we do highlights data we have studied and continue to learn more about all the time. Much of what we share in our training sessions comes from the work of John Hattie, an educational researcher and author of “Visible Learning” (https://visible-learning.org).
Teacher clarity, according to Hattie, boils down to having an intuitive understanding of what to teach and why to teach it, as well as how to teach it and what success looks like. As the teacher sees learning from the perspective of their students, students also become architects of their own learning.
The pandemic has forced us to rethink our approach to teaching. This is good. Of course, we should be allowed a mourning period to experience the grief and anxiety the past two years have wrought and how all of this is manifesting itself in our classrooms. But there are signs that are pointing us in directions – some we may have never explored – that are certain to re-ignite our zeal. Teacher clarity is vital.
To read the article in the Arizona Daily Star: (https://arizonadailystar-az.newsmemory.com/?publink=595e632e3_13486db)