I’m always looking to capture the essence of real school change and a way to communicate the significance and importance of change. Recently I was reminded of one of my favorite authors, Seth Godin, and the word that he often uses. Remarkable. And I started thinking, what we really need to do is to help our kids discover for themselves what they have the drive to become remarkable at.
While I was pondering this question at my desk I was approached by a superintendent who stopped by to tell me a story. He recently picked up his grandson at school. Upon entering the car his grandson proudly proclaimed what his test scores were on a standardized test. He told me that his heart sunk to his stomach. Even before he could tell me that I groaned in disbelief.
Is this what our school system is becoming? Compare the two above thoughts and think of your own children or grandchildren. Which would you prefer? Would you prefer that they discover a passion and drive that sets the foundation for their life. Or, would you like to have them reach the standard of excellence on a standardized test?
No-brainer! I am disturbed and disgusted where we’re heading in public education. When we talked about school change I never dreamed that our focus would be on raising a standardized test scores rather than preparing our kids for their future in the world in which they are going to live. – Steve Wyckoff
Friday I had the distinct pleasure of listening to a panel discussion by educators from Erie Kansas about real school change. Mike Carson, Ted Hill, Rose Frye, and Steve Oliver engaged in a wonderful webcast that lasted over an hour and a half, talking about project-based learning. The most encouraging thing about the webcast was that it dealt with education, and a better way of organizing and running schools to better meet the needs of the students, even though the discussion was prompted by declining resources and the need to dramatically cut costs in schools.
So why the title over under? Well, an over-under or over/under bet is a wager in which a sports book will predict a number for a statistic in a given game usually the combined score of the two teams. I wonder what the over under is for the total number of schools that will change to a project-based curriculum even though it is more effective, and more efficient in educating our children.
I think it will take three major skills on the part of superintendents to pull off what Erie high school has pulled off.
1. It will require great courage on the part of the superintendent to lead this change. It is a political hot potato to change what we’ve always done in schools regardless of how dismal the current results are.
2. It will require great vision on the part of school leaders. We have been doing what we do in schools for so long that it is almost part of an educator’s DNA. Having a vision, and having the ability to share the vision will be critical.
3. It will required great leadership skill. Making this kind of change will take skills that are rarely called upon to run an existing school district.
So what do I think the over and under will be? One. I just don’t see evidence of leaders who have the combination of courage, vision, and leadership to pull it off. I hope I’m wrong. I truly believe that this could be a tremendous solution to a tremendous problem. Only time will tell if we can make the real school change necessary. – Steve Wyckoff