William Raspberry wrote an opinion piece in Monday's Washington Post entitled "A Culture for Teaching." He described the work of James P. Comer, "the Yale professor of psychiatry and the mind behind the Comer School Development Program, a highly successful model for transforming urban schools."
I am not familiar with Dr. Cromer's work, but I share his belief that we as a school system need to foster better relationships with children and parents (community engagement) and we need to build professional "learning communities."
Raspberry describes Cromer's insight as follows: "Curriculum reform, new governance models, stiffer tests for students and teachers may be fine, but there's no magic in them. The magic is in a culture that supports child and adolescent development, and that can happen only through relationships..."
"Comer says, most teachers and school administrators haven't acquired (because they haven't been taught in teachers' colleges) the skills to create learning communities. That, he says, has to change. And his Comer School Development Program aims to change it by retraining teachers, administrators -- and parents."
For the past several years, Albemarle County Public Schools have been incorporating the goal of creating "learning communities" into our professional development training for our teachers and administrators (Rick DuFour is the national guru on this subject and I have sat in on his training sessions with our staff). I am pleased this objective will be more clearly described in our 2005-2007 Board Superintendent Priorities.
Second, fueled by strong feedback in our strategic planning process and community focus groups over the past year, we are also undertaking a new community engagement initiative with the recent appointment of Chris Dyer into the new position of Director of Community Engagement for the school division.
I'll be talking more about both these subjects in the months ahead. Brian