By Mark A. Hughes and Mark D. Benigni
With all the recent research and discussion about standardized test scores, differentiated instruction, school improvement efforts, value-added initiatives, and teacher evaluation measures, it is easy to forget about motivation and inspiration.
But we can’t.
In our roles as superintendent and board president for Connecticut’s Meriden Public Schools, this has become most apparent as we work to create learning institutions that students, staff, and families want to attend.
Meriden, a diverse community of approximately 60,000 residents, has more than 700 teachers who serve approximately 8,400 students in 12 school settings. Our free and reduced-price lunch rate and minority population are both more than 65 percent, but despite continued increases in the cost of providing education services, the district has not received an increase in municipal funding across three budget cycles.
This funding pinch has resulted in significant reductions in staffing and resources. It has demoralized the staff at a time when the demands for increased student achievement are higher than ever.
How do we maintain our focus? How do we continue to inspire students and teachers during one of our nation’s most difficult economic times? How do we continue to motivate when mandated assessment methods do not provide us the data that we need to show success? How do we keep a focus on the goals when mandated expectations are, at times, unrealistic?
It is essential that our administrators inspire and find methods that demonstrate the end results are worth the work. It is just as important that our school board is both knowledgeable and supportive. And that requires training.
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