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Q-and-A: Educators should move beyond “tradition-bound” education

4 min read


Educators returning to the classroom this fall are facing many new challenges, including implementation of the Common Core State Standards. There also is a growing demand and higher expectation for educators to connect digitally with students and to differentiate learning for students’ individual needs.

“Everyone returning to school should understand these challenges and prepare to face them in a very robust and bold way,” says Gene R. Carter, a veteran educator and executive director and CEO of ASCD.

Carter in this interview with SmartBrief’s senior education editor Melissa Greenwood discusses the impact of the Common Core State Standards on schools, how technology is changing the classroom, and highlights one issue that he thinks will be a game changer for America’s schools.

Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core State Standards for both mathematics and English language arts. How will the standards impact educators this school year?

The impact for teachers — many who have spent the summer gearing up for implementation of the standards — is that they may have to adjust their activities so that their classroom practice aligns with the standards and with the assessments that they use to determine student progress.

There are common core critics, some of them teachers. What would you say to them?

The standards will require change on the part of educators, and that can be difficult. However, we have to move away from the comfort of operating with tradition-bound practices if we want to be successful. Educators have to grow to meet the individual needs of each of the students placed in their care.

How has education changed since you first became a teacher and what advice do you have for new teachers of today?

When I began teaching, teachers weren’t responsible for addressing the unique needs of each child. They taught to the mean. Teachers were considered to be conveyors of information and knowledge, but today, teachers are expected to be facilitators of the learning process. The iconic symbols in place when I taught — chalk boards and printed textbooks — are much different today. We have the Internet, iPads, tablets and list goes on and on.

Technology is a staple in most classrooms today, but do educators really need technology to teach their students?

Technology is a tool that teachers have at their disposal to improve learning. Tools are extensions of the communities they serve and in most of our students’ communities, there is a heightened expectation that technology will play a critical role in their lives and in the lives of their parents and other adults. If school is presumed to be an extension of the communities they serve, then the experiences they expose children to have to be authentic, and being void of technology, will not meet that test. Technology should not be viewed as a threat to teachers, but rather a mechanism to supporting their work. In my view, technology expands teachers’ capacity to personalize, customize, and differentiate instruction and to breakdown the perceived barriers of time and distance.

What is one current education issue that you predict will be a game changer for America’s schools?

There are a plethora of game changers, but the one that comes to mind is the need to match supply and demand as it relates to teachers in our schools. Schools have to compete with other sectors for talent today and as the challenges and demands of teaching grow, the problem of ensuring an adequate supply of highly qualified teachers is acute. Teacher preparation plays a big role in the retention of teachers and most of the data today affirms that teachers who are fully prepared as far as pre-teaching programs are concerned tend to stay in the profession longer. America must invest in its teacher preparation programs to become high achieving and equitable in its student outcomes. If teachers aren’t prepared, and we don’t have teachers of equal quality, then we will cease to be competitive in the global marketplaces.