I orginally began this post in response to Effective Principals: Rebels with a Cause by Greg Farr; and I finally just had to go on and create my own post. Here's to you, Greg Farr, you underrate your superiority and excellence.
I have been in the education biz for a long time... decades, for God's sake. I remember the embarrassment we all felt when a Nation at Risk was published... that was MY generation.
From the very first year of my educational practice, we (educators) have all been a bunch of losers who just weren't doing it right. Throughout my career, I have religiously quoted Ron Edmonds (the father of the Effective Schools Movement, which was hailed as the cure-all of my generation), "We currently know enough to educate every child. The question is how badly we want to." (Sound familiar?) So, it was a matter of wanting to. For the greater part of my life and all of my professional life, I have really, really wanted to educate each and every child. I have developed my craft in urban schools, no small feat.
My current school has gone from five consecutive years on the state's low performing list to number one in the state in five of six measured educational indicators; however, I am now beginning to believe maybe what we are teaching (and measuring) is not relevant, rigorous, or replicable beyond our small scope.
In education, we have a tendency to measure not what we want to (need to) measure but what we can measure... it's a lot like measuring someone's height because you can't measure their weight. If a person's weight is proportionate to their height then measuring their height might be a prediction of their weight; but if not, then what's the point of measuring their height?
In other words, why are we measuring the stuff we are measuring with standardized and criterion-referenced tests when what we really want to measure is children's ability to collaboratively problem solve and effectively communicate?
In America, we have a crisis of confidence in our educational system. We labor to provide an education that meets the standards of some by-gone era, and we are shocked and appalled and disappointed at our failure to excel in this worthless dinosaur. Our students decry our sad out-of-sync efforts, but we still labor feverishly at something that meets no needs of anyone or anything but the slavish assessment systems tht we have elevated into a god-like category.
Let's rethink what it is that we want to accomplish. Quite frankly, what IS it that we wish to accomplish? The bottom line is this: students should exit our educational system with excellence in problem solving and communication and an ability to continue their education beyond a formal preparation. This would prepare them for every eventuality. If we train them in regurgitation and finite sets of information, then we prepare them for YESTERDAY.
Then why ARE we using old "had been" standards for this brave new world in which we now live? Educators tend to lose sight of the present. Let's quit doing what we have always done harder and faster and better and longer. Let's find a system that engages our students by developing relationships with significant adults who serve as guides in how to become problem solvers and communicators, so our students can continue to educate themselves effectively long after we are gone. Every indication points to new skills needed for jobs that we don't even know exist today. We must train our students to be flexible and able to navigate the future with PROBLEM SOLVING AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS.
We need to stop thinking the way we have always thought... start using the present (because, baby, the future is here) to solve the educational problems we now face. I don't know about you, but from what I have read of Greg Farr, I don't think he's had a slacker moment in his entire life. And, if he's decided to quit searching for an answer and learn to do the old "crap" in a better, faster, more deliberate fashion because he has not been succeeding, then I am really scared for me and the rest of us.
Why don't we agree to collectively call a moratorium on terming ourselves as failures for our past efforts and start finding a way to reach and teach all of our students with a relevant, rigorous, and
WORTHWHILE goal in mind... the future. And, Greg, don't quit looking for the answer because if just doing it better, longer, harder worked then we would have found the answer years ago!