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Sharing knowledge
Arizona Daily Star
November 18, 2003


One of the pleasant realities of public education is that some schools and students excel even in the most educationally inhospitable environments.

But it is a hard truth because those schools are almost always isolated pockets of achievement within areas of despair. Even sadder is that central office administrators often lack the foresight to tap into the knowledge and enthusiasm of the successful principals and

So it was with approval that we acknowledged an idea of state schools Superintendent Tom Horne to create teams of accomplished educators to help the state's underperforming schools.

The problem is that the state is having trouble recruiting experienced and successful educators for the teams. So far, only 60 people have signed up for the program. The state needs 300 people to visit 200 underperforming schools.

The reluctance is understandable.

The teams are to visit an underperforming school for but three days. Further, teachers who volunteer would have to leave their own classes in order to take part in the program.

The drive-by analysis of school problems and the instant solutions seem not to fit well with the complex problems faced by failing schools.

But the problem goes deeper than the inability to recruit qualified members of the solutions teams.

There are many factors that make school reform successful reform. One of the fundamental elements is to get everyone involved to agree to the solution.

Teachers in Arizona have resisted the idea of President Bush's Leave No Child Behind initiative, as well as the reforms now underway at the state level. That may be the biggest factor in the lack of enthusiasm for the program.

"There's a lot of hesitancy on the part of teachers. There's not a whole lot of buy-in yet to the whole labeling of schools," said Jan Truitt, principal at Marana High School.

Another factor is that teachers who sign up for the program would have to leave their own classes and let a substitute take over. That would subject those students to three days without their regular teacher. And good teachers will be reluctant to leave their classes.

The state's monetary incentive is pretty minimal, too. The state will not pay team members who choose to take paid time off. For those who take unpaid time off, and for those outside the state system, the state will pay $225 per day per team member and $325 per day per team leader.

However, the idea to share successful practices is a good one. And the first year of the program is bound to start slowly.

In the meantime, teachers, principals and administrators should be encouraged to share their knowledge. Excellent educators deserve the recognition and underperforming schools should have the opportunity to realize their potential.