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My Personal Perspective is an introductory note from Dr. Janet Pilcher, the Senior Leader of Studer Education. It is the first in a series of posts which focus on Teacher Appreciation Week.



Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week – Each day we will highlight the work of teachers on our What’s Right in Education Blog.  The purpose of this blog is to do just that – highlight the good that is going on in our schools.  In our great country, school accountability is getting tougher and tougher and policies are making it easier and easier for leaders to make quick decisions about retaining and removing teachers from struggling schools (those schools that have consistently received low marks on student achievement). I use this platform to ask educators and stakeholders to reflect and think about the value and needs of teachers that sometimes are forgotten behind the layers of reform efforts.

Today, I would like to revisit a school that is near and dear to our hearts at Studer Education to promote something valuable I have learned – when supported and cared about the majority of teachers can and will perform to help their students achieve.  So, we’ve learned something very important – wrong decisions about teachers may be made by leaders when moving forward with a trend for reforming struggling schools which promotes leaders making quick and hasty decisions to remove teachers.  Before making such a crucial decision, as leaders, we owe it to teachers to provide them with support, development and care so they have opportunities to be successful. In our work in school districts we promote and teach a salient point – school leaders’ number one priority should be to provide teachers with a work environment that gives teachers every opportunity to achieve success with their students.

The federal funding allocated to some of our lowest performing schools in our country is done so through School Improvement Grants (SIG). SIG provides district and school leaders with four options to choose when receiving the funding:  (US DOE definitions)

  1. Turnaround model, which would include, among other actions, replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of the school’s staff, adopting a new governance structure, and implementing a new or revised instructional program.
  2. Restart model, in which an LEA would close the school and reopen it under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization (CMO), or an educational management organization (EMO) that has been selected through a rigorous review process.
  3. School closure, in which an LEA would close the school and enroll the students who attended the school in other, high-achieving schools in the LEA.
  4. Transformation model, which would address four specific areas critical to transforming the lowest achieving schools:
    • Developing teacher and school leader effectiveness;
    • Implementing comprehensive instructional reform strategies;
    • Extending learning time and creating community-oriented schools; and
    • Providing operating flexibility and sustained support.

I would like to connect us back to Montclair Elementary School, a SIG school starting at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year. I praise Superintendent Thomas for electing to move forward as a Transformation Model for Montclair Elementary School. It set the stage for us doing the important work with leaders, instructional coaches and teachers.

With great pleasure, we at Studer Education, have worked with leaders, teachers, students and their parents for two years and have learned from our work with them. Here are two important things we learned that we believe are worth sharing so that school leaders focus their lens on first developing and supporting teachers to achieve success.

  1. If the school district would have moved forward with one of the other three models, an opportunity for seeing teachers gain confidence and success with their students may not have been recognized by us or the teachers.
  2. Teachers have greater opportunities to succeed when the school leadership team and instructional coaches have as their primary focus to support, develop and care for teachers.

The results from state testing are being evaluated, so the determination of meeting SIG goals this year will not be known until the summer.  What we do know is this – the large majority of teachers at Montclair worked as hard as they could and did a great job with students every day.  We know the large majority of students at Montclair did their very best on testing day and the large majority of parents made sure their children were at school on time and prepared for the test.

So, I write this note to teachers today on behalf of my pride for Montclair Elementary School teachers in Pensacola, Florida to say THANK YOU for doing the difficult work you do each day to make a huge difference in the lives of students and their parents.  At the end of next week, Montclair has invited fathers to school to decorate cakes with their children for Mother’s Day.  The teachers, students and their parents have reinforced what we know about teachers – the lives of our children and families are at the forefront of why teachers do what they do every day. Many times we fail to appreciate those small things that make such a great difference in the lives of others.

At Studer Education we say a big thank you to Montclair teachers and thank teachers in schools across America making an important difference in the lives of those they teach.

Dr. Janet Pilcher
Dr. Robin Largue
Dr. Julie Kunselman
Dr. Sarah Miller
Katie Tener
Paul Brown


My Personal Perspective
is an introductory note from Dr. Janet Pilcher, the Senior Leader of Studer Education. It is the first in a series of posts which focus on Teacher Appreciation Week. Contact Janet by phone 850.221.7811 or via email at janet.pilcher@studergroup.com or with this form.