Sometimes, however, the simplest—and most effective—
thing to do is to go back to the beginning.
Back to the start and focus on what works.
Veteran teachers know that educational “reform” many times is anything but that. Politicians and bureaucrats expound about “redesign”, “standards”, “assessment”, and “reorganization.” While each of those concepts can hold great promise for genuine improvement, it is common to see such reforms whither. Sometimes that is because of a lack of adequate funding or other resources. Other times, a shift in the political winds might bring about a change in direction.
The legacy of many of these reforms can be frustrating. There are human and financial costs. At times, the cost has been lost time as teachers and students have been saddled with paperwork and mandated scripts to implement new “standards.”
One news article this week described recent action in the Florida legislature that highlighted another “new” approach to educational reform. The House Speaker said that the bipartisan bill (on its way to the governor’s desk) was not watering down standards, it was “redesigning high school standards to give different options to students who may not be interested in pursuing a college degree.” OK. Sounds good. But just three years ago, the legislature had toughened up the graduation requirements to “help students compete globally.” My guess is that back then that was also considered “redesigning.”
In Texas Rethinking Its Testing Curriculum Standards, Will Weissert reports, “a number of states are considering pulling back” from tougher graduation standards. “After rounds of raising standards and requiring tests, some legislatures are now swinging back in the other direction.” Politicians now say they are concerned about bombarding our students with too many tests and too many test-prep days.
I believe the teachers (for the most part) have been saying this all along. Fire hosing information is not education.
So what is the history lesson here? Does ill-advised redesign lead to retreat? Or do we make it sound better and say we are simply “reframing” the situation?
Another piece of the educational redesign history has been the proliferation of online education. The chair of the Florida House Education Committee, excited about online possibilities, recently said, “You could take all of your courses from your kitchen table.”
And this is good, I suppose. Flexibility. Lower costs. Access. All very positive pieces of the educational puzzle. But is this one more panacea offered by the decision makers? Before you accuse me of being a troglodyte, I understand that new ways of envisioning education (like the Khan Academy) have to be explored and embraced. Our students have changed. Our world has changed.
Video recommendation for the week:
Sometimes, however, the simplest—and most effective—thing to do is to go back to the beginning. Back to the start and focus on what works. Forget redesigning for the sake of redesigning for political or economic gain or to check a box on someone’s clipboard.
In education, one of those basic building blocks is the one-on-one personal connections that thousands of teachers make each day with their students. These connections help motivate, educate, and rejuvenate our students and communities. Do we have deep troubles? You bet. Will an emphasis on fire-hosed testing, self-secluded education, and politically motivated redesign help? I doubt it.
A bureaucrat told me at a meeting this week that he “was not responsible for the history.”
That may or may not be correct, sir, but you are most definitely responsible for the present. Moreover, your actions are creating history.
Think about that at your kitchen table.
Enjoy your week—and H.T.R.B. as needed!
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