Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How to fix education: Unifying the Goal

What is the goal of school? What is the goal of educating?

If you were to ask ten teachers, you would get ten totally different answers.
If you asked ten superintendents, you would get ten totally different answers.
If you asked ten legislators, you would get ten totally different answers.
If you asked ten parents, you would get ten totally different answers.
If you asked ten students, you would get ten totally different answers.

So, how do we define the goal of educating our students?

I think that if you look at any three school districts, district A would claim that the purpose of educating students is A, B, C. District B would say orange, yellow, red. And, district C would assert apple, banana, kumquat. Even if they could individually define a local goal for educating students, it would not be similar between school districts in other counties or states. Do we find the goal of school in mission statements?

New York City District 79 mission statement: District 79 will empower students through rigorous instruction and quality support services. A community of education leaders, District 79 will serve as a model for innovative and replicable strategies to engage students.

Chicago Public Schools mission statement: Our vision is that every student in every neighborhood will be engaged in a rigorous, well-rounded instructional program and will graduate prepared for success in college, career and life.   

Los Angeles Unified School District: The teachers, administrators and staff of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) believe in the equal worth and dignity of all students and are committed to educate all students to their maximum potential (I think they missed a comma there #nojudgement).

If we see the mission statement as a school’s goal, these are kinda all over the place.  They use words like engaged, rigorous, and well-rounded. They talk about equal worth and dignity.  They talk about potential.

Please explain to me how to measure potential on a standardized test.
Please explain to me which common core standard addresses equal worth and dignity.

Should these types of things be our goals: Yes. But, if you have such ambiguous and non-evaluatable (Mr. Barner you make up a bunch of words. I know. It’s my blog. I can do what I want.)  goals, how do you know you met them? More specifically, how do you know you met them for each kid?

To fix education you must unify the goal.

I want a mission statement that says this:

In the school district where I work and my kids go to school (realize I’m just saying that because I don’t want you to think that I speak for my school), our staff will make it their primary goal to give every student the skills and knowledge to be able to advance their next learning, AND will expect your student to exercise the mental endurance to succeed. If the student, or the teacher fails, we will use that failure as a rubric for the next step in learning. At _____CSD, we will learn how to learn efficiently, and have the awareness to connect that learning to the next.  

I want a goal that is measurable. I want the goal that can be accomplished. I want a mission statement that can stand as the job description of my school. So, I get your 21st century, life-long learner, rigorous ambiguity, but I’m tired of mission statements being political. Where they are so nonspecific that they can offend no one and in turn affect no one.

The unification of the goal has to start at the building/district level and grow from there.

Post log:

This blog took about a week to write. Over that week I had a lot of conversations, and my thinking has expanded. I believe in the mission statement as the goal/job description. I’m still posting the blog because I believe in what I wrote, but I wanted you to know that I understand there are holes in this thinking. I understand that this may be more passion than real fixing. I don’t mind being publically imperfect.

Your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged,

Dane Barner


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