Many 20-somethings (myself included) may find it challenging to carve a clear career path in a field as broad as education. With so many types of organizations tackling a range of critical issues, the breadth of choices for jobs and specialties can be overwhelming. Add to that the seemingly endless pool of like-minded, talented colleagues, and it becomes an even more daunting task to set oneself apart. Not for Zakiya Smith, who was named to the Forbes list “30 Under 30 in Education” just last year.
A Reformer’s Case for Tracking
Few concepts in the education world draw as much ire from reformers as the idea of tracking, or sorting students by demonstrated academic ability. I too, a would-be reformer raised on a steady diet of Malcolm Gladwell and the Pygmalion effect, am made uncomfortable by the idea. But more evidence is beginning to point to the positive effects of such homogenous groupings. Studies of schools from Massachusetts to Kenya have suggested positive effects of tracking not just for the highest level students but also for the lowest level ones. So what is a young reformer to think?
This past month, I stood in front of a room full of my students, mostly recent immigrants to the United States. They were taking a national exam that tests English-language learners’ (ELLs) ability to comprehend and work with academic language. I read my students the instructions and then each question, as required, in English. It was the last week of May, and for most students across the country, one of the final weeks of school before summer break. By now, most students have a year’s worth of instruction and practice to prepare for the exam. So why was I looking at a room full of blank stares?
For many professionals, including teachers, the thought of receiving feedback (that dreaded F word) from a colleague is the stuff of nightmares. But it shouldn’t be.
One of the core principles of the teacher education program I attended at the University of Oxford was that regular and appropriate feedback is key to success. For the first four months I taught, I received feedback from an experienced teacher after every lesson. At my first full-time job, a teacher observed me once every six weeks – and more frequently if needed. I even gave feedback to student teachers. I cannot tell you how helpful it was to sit in Leanne’s religious studies class with a challenging group or see how Kate taught a dry topic in French in an exciting way. I was a serious feedback evangelist. Then, one day, I got feedback that unsettled me.
YEP-DC is a nonpartisan group of education professionals who work in research, policy, and practice – and even outside of education. The views expressed here are only those of the attributed author, not YEP-DC. This blog aims to provide a forum for our group’s varied opinions. It also serves as an opportunity for many more professionals in DC and beyond to participate in the ongoing education conversation. We hope you chime in, but we ask that you do so in a considerate, respectful manner. We reserve the right to modify or delete any content or comments. For any more information or for an opportunity to blog, contact us via one of the methods below.
MONICA GRAY is co-founder & president of DreamWakers, an edtech nonprofit. She writes on education innovation and poverty.