I’ve spent the past five years embedded in the education field. I am a founder and the prior CEO of a group that manages a charter school network with 4500 students and a staff of 400+. What I’ve learned, from an insiders vantage point, is that TEACHERS are the most important part of educating your child. We focus so much on curriculum and testing as the end all and be all measure of a school. Of course, academics and those scores are important, but the questions parents should be asking is ‘What about the emotional and character education aspect of my child’s development?’ A school that can get both the academics and character right will be full with parents clamoring to get their children in.
We got there through No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top, and Common Core with well-meaning top-down initiatives designed to focus money and attention where it was needed most…or so we thought.
An end of year test is easy administered and a quick way to say this school is good and this school is bad. What we missed in the focus on one big state test is that it leads some schools towards a drill and kill approach to covering facts and driving home standards above all else. In speaking with a seasoned middle school math teacher from one of our areas top academic public schools, I asked her how the academic results were achieved. Her answer was that the entire school focused only on test results. Gone was the art programs, the social studies. Students performed well on the end of year tests in Math and English but when they showed up in August for a new school year, the concepts that were drilled into them without meaning or context were sadly gone.
The hyper-focus on test outcomes by some school systems is actually at the expense of the joy of learning. The power of connection and deep relationships between a student and a teacher can and will lead to greater academic outcomes. The teachers I get the pleasure to work with, day in and day out, make the connections and pour their heart into the students in their classroom. Sure we focus on academic achievement, but we focus just as hard on character development. I have come to learn, from watching and research what works in schools, the dual focus is critical, and without a powerful teacher in the classroom, ready and willing to put the effort into creating a lasting and impactful relationship, neither goal will be achieved.
If you are a parent, think about what you want your child to look like as a young adult. Then look at the school you are enrolled in and ask yourself; “Is My School Focusing In The Right Areas?”