Questions arise about Sparkman High speaker

By Trang Do - Bio | Email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - In a time of school budget cuts, professional development is usually one of the first things to be sacrificed.

But now some are raising questions about a controversial speaker brought in by Sparkman High School, and the source of the funding to bring him to Huntsville.

About 200 Sparkman 9th grade and high school teachers got a four-hour crash course in Dr. Willard Daggett's teaching strategy he calls "Rigor and Relevance" at the Huntsville Botanical Garden Tuesday morning.

"Once the kids see why what they're learning is important, they become engaged," Daggett said. "The term we use is 'Relevance makes rigor possible.' "

Daggett is CEO of the International Center for Leadership in Education -- an education research and consulting firm based in upstate New York.

A quick Internet search of Daggett's name turned up several hits questioning his methods and background, even some accusing Daggett of making up facts to support his work, which a WAFF 48 News viewer brought to our attention.

We asked Daggett to address the criticisms.

"I think any of those you'll find are really, really old criticisms, of people that have been debunked twenty different ways over the years," he said. "If you look at those critics, they are a critic of everyone and everything."

Criticisms aside, the total cost of the seminar was $8,000, another point of contention in a tight budget year.

Sparkman principal Manuel Wallace says none of it came out of school funds.

"We've had several vendors that have graciously donated resources and the monies to put on this particular function," Wallace said. "So no, it's not by anything we've taken out of our general fund, or any other expenses from our budgets."

Ultimately, Wallace says professional development is important to Sparkman High, and that the seminar's intent was to raise standards and enhance student achievement.

Wallace says Sparkman High has an administrator solely in charge of professional development, as well as a building leadership team that helped plan Tuesday's seminar.

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