Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Want to Improve the Schools? Just Ask.

Here's my Big Honking Plan to improve education:

1. Go find great schools. Schools where the students are happy and challenged, the parents are thrilled, the teachers are vibrant, the administration is effective. People are clamoring to get houses and apartments in the area.

2. Ask everyone involved in those schools what they do and how they work.

3. Listen.

Seriously.

How do you determine which schools are the great ones?

Ask.

Don't test, don't chart, don't measure, just go talk to the people in the communities. They will tell you.

I bet that once this is done ten or twenty or a hundred or a thousand times, patterns will emerge.

Here's my bet on what the patterns are:

- Teachers and Specialists are collaborating, sharing resources and ideas across classes and disciplines and among grade levels
- Parents are supportive and involved as much as they can be
- The community at large is supportive
- The curriculum is challenging, varied and enjoyable
- The students are trying their best much of the time

Here's another bet I'll make about the patterns you would see:

- Some things don't go well, arguments happen, disagreements occur. Students fail tests. Homework gets lost. Kids fall down on the playground. Kids get sick. Parents make mistakes. Teachers make mistakes. Administrators make mistakes.
- Each school year or term is very different. Sometimes kids don't blend well. Sometimes student and teacher personalities don't match up. People are different.
BUT
- These things are handled as part of the education process, with care, and attention, and support.

Students are supposed to make mistakes. How do you know they are expanding their knowledge if they aren't reaching far enough to make a mistake or have an unexpected result? I have no idea.

So there you have it. My plan to improve education. Go and ask. Ask teachers how they structure their day. Ask parents what they do and how they talk to their kids when they get home from work or school. Ask students what their day is like and what they enjoy most. Ask adminstrators how they interact with the students and parents and teachers. Ask what everyone does when there is a problem.

And then, don't make charts or crunch numbers, just listen.

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