In a recent bit over on his blog, my buddy Tony Baldasaro argued that the decisions schools make are often designed to support the system rather than to support students or to advance learning. He writes:
“I’m trying hard to not be so cynical about the institutionalization of our public schools and I remind myself all the time of the amazing people that my kids get to learn from everyday, but when I get notifications of things such as that which I wrote above, I am reminded of how powerful the institutional machine really is.”
In a lot of ways, Tony’s right about the damage that “the institution” has done to education: The incredibly sad reality is that the principals and teachers working inside of our schools rarely have enough influence over “the system” to intentionally control much of anything that happens inside of our buildings anymore.
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Instead, we spend the vast majority of our professional time and energy doing little more than responding to the #edpolicy decisions that govern our work. Everything from the time that our students spend in class, to the content that must be covered in our curricula, to the way that we can spend our budgets is often explicitly defined by legislators.
To make matters worse, experimentation and innovation is literally crushed in high-stakes environments that tie our evaluations — and our public reputations — to the “results” we produce on low-level multiple choice exams that do little to encourage the kind of progressive thinking and instruction that REALLY matters in our classrooms.
Don’t get me wrong: Schools need to change. And yes, I believe that teachers and principals are the right people to lead that change.
But the simple truth is that practitioners are all-too-often handcuffed by the #edpolicy choices made by legislators working a thousand miles from the classroom. Until that reality changes, I’m hesitant to lay the blame for a stagnant system at the feet of principals and teachers.
Any of this make sense?
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