ASCD had a thought provoking article on virtual coaching. The idea is basically that the coach would use technology do “drop in” to a classroom to conduct classroom observations. It suggest the following equipment for teachers a) wide angle webcam b)bluetooth adapter c) bluetooth headset and for the coach a)external HD b)headset with microphone c) webcam and microphone. The idea being that the teacher could recieve real time feedback as the coach watches the classroom in action. I like this idea because it addresses one of the basic problems with current classroom observations i.e., that the observer can often change the behavior of the classroom by the simple fact of being in the room. With a Virtual Coach the drops in via a webcam the visit becomes truly unobtrusive. I think this would also lead to increased productivity by the coach and teachers as the coach can easily visit multiple classrooms in the same time it would take the coach to visit one classroom and then walk to the next classroom.
However, I would not advocate dropping in without the teachers prior knowledge. If this were to be used to “spy” on teachers, I think that the program would be counter-productive as any advantage would be eliminated by creating an unhealthy school environment.
SI&A Cabinet Report that a study suggests grad rates will dip with A-G completion requirements. However, I do not believe that has to be the case. I believe in the A-G requirement for graduation because it sets a bar that says when you graduate, you will be ready for college. Many students and parents are surprised to learn that graduating from high school has/had no such assertion. Will it be more difficult? Absolutely. It will be more difficult because there will not be a track for students that aren’t “going to college”; this track has historically been populated by the poor and children of color. Many school systems have shown themselves poorly prepared to deal with students that are outside the “mainstream”. However, simply because it is difficult does not mean we should not do it; in this case it is the right thing to do. The work becomes how do we assure that students can meet this benchmark. It will take a shift in entire education communities which includes teachers, administrators, parents, students, and politicians. Teachers will need to develop and learn new instructional strategies, administrators will need to allocate resources for interventions, parents will need to actively support student participation in interventions, students will need to participate in additional interventions, and politicians will need to prioritize resource allocation for schools. It can be done but it will take a concerted effort and imagine the pay off: every student graduating college ready! Go make a difference.