Thursday, March 16, 2017

If School was Equal for Everyone

       If school was equal for everyone...

  • The most struggling students would have the best teachers.  We know that good teachers make a difference in student outcomes.  Our best teachers are also our best motivators; they help students to see the value of effort and their students try hard and do their best every day.  Students who struggle academically need good teachers who believe that all students can learn and show this by their actions as well as by their words.  I hate to say it, but students who have a lot of support at home--students with parents that value education--typically do fine in school regardless of the quality of their teacher.  If there are only a relatively small portion of the teaching force that is in the "best" category, they should be teaching the most struggling students.
  • Students would be allowed to learn at their own pace.  They wouldn't have to "move on" because the rest of the class is learning faster than they are.  And they wouldn't have to sit in class being bored with nothing to do because they "get it" faster than everyone else.  Student engagement is increased when students have some control as to the pace of their learning.
  • Opportunities for all sorts of classes would be available to all students.  Music, art, physical education, higher-level (college-prep) classes would be available to everyone.  If a student struggles in math but wants to take Calculus at some point, there would be a path of courses (and professional educator assistance) to help her to get to Calculus.  If a student wanted to take two or three foreign languages prior to high school graduation, he could do that and still complete all of the other requirements.
  • There would be a lot less competition for grades and a lot more desire for learning.  "A" students would receive no more praise than "C" students because effort would be valued over performance.  Students who didn't "get it" the first time or the second time would be given multiple opportunities to reach proficiency.  Some will exceed expectations and some will barely meet the expectations.  But all will be rewarded for learning.
  • Students with career goals after high school will receive the same amount of help and guidance as students with college goals.  Preparation for civil participation will be part of every students' P-12 experience.  And students who don't know what they want to do after high school, will receive opportunities to understand their skills and to consider different options.
     We live in an imperfect world filled with imperfect people, imperfect teachers, imperfect students, and imperfect schools.  We can wish for perfection, but we can't realistically reach perfection.  The best we can do is recognize our needs, understand our problems, and work together to find the best solutions for our students.  Amazing things happen when we work together.  While (usually) quite un-amazing things happen when we refuse to change in the name of we've-always-done-it-this-way.

       Our schools work hard to produce the best outcomes for our students given the staff and money and facilities and materials and students and parents that we have.  When things don't work, the answer to fix it and make it work.  Everything can be better; it may take a lot of hard work, but it can be better.

       Our schools may not be equal for everyone, but they can be the most positive places for our students and teachers if we want them to be.

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