From Kansas Policy Institute.
Calling all teachers — ideas from the trenches of education!
By David Dorsey
My name is David Dorsey and I am excited to be the newest member of the Kansas Policy Institute team.
It has been my pleasure and privilege to be a public school teacher in Kansas for the past 17 years. My tenure has included eight years in a rural district (Garnett) and the most recent nine years in Topeka USD 501, all seventeen at the elementary level. I have had so many wonderful experiences with students, parents, extended families and, of course, other teachers and staff over this time.
But all is not right, that is why I have become part of KPI’s effort to improve public education in this state. There are significant achievement gaps that exist among demographic groups — gaps that have not and are not being addressed. And, certainly, gaps that leave many of our graduates ill-prepared for life after school.
The public education funding explosion that has occurred since the 1970s has been effective in equalizing dollars spent across school districts. However, this money has had virtually no impact on reducing the achievement gap between the socio-economic “haves” and “have-nots.” Furthermore, test scores have remained flat. Our goal is to improve the education outcomes for all Kansans, with a particular emphasis on closing that achievement gap.
I am writing this to ask fellow teachers (and anyone else) to share ideas, practices and approaches that will help make this happen. Because one thing quality teachers understand is that it’s not about the money. Ask an administrator what it takes to improve education and the answer is almost always this: more money. Ask a quality teacher the same question (which I frequently do) and almost never is that the response. But, I’m amazed at how often the answer involves spending money more wisely.
Over these past 17 years I have known many excellent teachers with great ideas in how to improve student achievement. I have even been lucky enough to help see a few move beyond simply a topic of conversation. I’ve also seen subtle and not-so-subtle changes in the administration of public education. School districts, particularly large ones, have become highly centralized with administrative edicts that govern virtually every minute of every school day. Teachers have become handcuffed and creativity is thwarted — something we’ll explore in this space down the road.
My point is this: in order to truly make a difference in improving educational outcomes, ideas are going to have to come from those who deal with students on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute basis.
Also, I’ve taught long enough to know teachers can be somewhat reticent when it comes to challenging the status quo. I respect that. That’s why we are creating a forum for which teachers can share their thoughts, ideas, and even frustrations without fear of consequence.
With that in mind, I am soliciting your ideas, suggestions, and comments to help improve teaching and provide each, individual child with the right opportunity. I will be using this forum as a sort of clearinghouse to share your input. And I will do so respecting your right of privacy. No names, school, or school district will be mentioned. Send e-mails to [email protected].
I want to be very clear that Kansas Policy Institute fully respects individuals’ right to privacy and anonymous free speech; this is the same constitutionally-protection freedom offered to our supporters and extended now to those with ideas on helping each child reach their full potential.
Can’t wait to hear from you!
David Dorsey Biography: Mr. Dorsey is a Senior Adjunct Education Policy Fellow with the Kansas Policy Institute. Mr. Dorsey has a Master of Arts in Political Science from Arizona State University with an emphasis on research and statistical analysis. He spent 15 years working in state and local government in Arizona before spending the last 20 years in elementary school classrooms; the last 17 in Kansas public schools. He completed post-baccalaureate work at Chapman University to obtain his teaching license and has spent the past eight years as a mathematics interventionist at Lowman Hill Elementary School in Topeka USD 501.