Recently, I presented to a group of school board members and a superintendent. The superintendent made the following observation that I’ve been chewing on since our meeting. In his opinion, instructional materials increasingly are geared towards teachers, rather than students, and, specifically, towards making teachers’ jobs easier. Most people think that’s a good thing; he does not.

Teacher editions typically have provided instructional guidance to teachers. Today’s products provide more guidance to help teachers individualize instruction. For example, teacher editions often explain specifically how to adapt their instruction for specific student populations, including English language learners and struggling students.  Publishers do this to meet the market’s demand, as laws and regulations increasingly require that teachers individualize instruction.

Most educators appreciate publishers’ guidance to teachers. Policymakers and “education reformers” extoll online resources as a great “leveler” among teachers, arguing that adaptive online products help weaker teachers provide instruction that is as effective as stronger teachers.  That is precisely what this superintendent objects to.  To paraphrase what I believe he was saying, adaptive products lull teachers into believing that the product provides instruction, so they can facilitate or guide, rather than teach. He argues that is not good for teachers, for teaching, and most importantly, that is not good for students.

I love meeting people who make me think about things from a new perspective.