This post is part two in a series that offers an alternative to school reform that does not include a silver-bullet or fad diet.
I think that educational reformers spend way too much time focused on what’s wrong in education. I think this is a problem for a couple of reasons.
First, focusing on what’s wrong gets us into a negative mind space that warps our perception of the system. We end up thinking like a Dean of Discipline who spends her day, all day, dealing with the 15-20 children who are in trouble. From her point of view, it feels like all children are up to no good. This is because all of her experiences with children have been with those who were in trouble. When all we ever read about is what’s wrong with public education and how this guru or that program will save us, when begin to lose sight of all of the things that our public schools are doing well.
I’m not going to go into an exhaustive list of all of the things that I think public education is still doing well. I can give you a few examples from my own school in Oakland, CA. In the last five years, our drop-out rate has gone from 40% to 30%. We’ve changed our schedule from a six- to a seven-period day to allow students more flexibility and choice around electives. Our new schedule allows our teachers who either share students or share curriculum to collaborate in teams every day of the week. Our school now has three career academies where students can choose to focus their electives on either Education, Digital Media, or Green Energy. See? Don’t you already have a better feeling about the school where I work?
Secondly, taking inventory about what a school is doing well sets us up for the second step on the road to positive, sustainable school reform.
I think all teachers, administrators, and parents should spend some time investigating their own schools, looking specifically for their strengths. Take time to celebrate all of the great things that your school is doing. Don’t listen to those edu-reformers and snake-oil salesmen who want to convince you that the purchase of their product or program is your ticket to happier days. Instead, catalog your strengths and assets and stay tuned to this blog.
In two weeks, we’ll take the next step in a journey of community-led school reform.