GOOD


Earlier this year in the Curtis School community, we asked teachers what they want their students to become. They used words like compassionate, cooperative, creative, critically thinking, and curious. We asked parents and guardians to identify the words they'd use to define the future "success" of their children—they used words like independent, open-minded, self-motivated, resilient, and engaged. And we asked 8 to 12-year-old students to describe the very best they hoped to become—they used words like balanced, flexible, enthusiastic, honest, cooperative, and determined.

In October we invited similar input from participants at "Teaching and Learning at Home and at School", a conference held on our campus in Los Angeles for passionate educators and parents/guardians—engaged members of both public and private school communities—to reflect on our common commitments to the lives and the learning of school-aged children at school and at home. The 600 participants were stakeholders from 125 schools and districts—yet nobody used words like accountable, competitive, distinguished, or exceptional.

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What Parents Aren’t Asked in School Surveys—and Why

Making data-driven education reform decisions is great — unless the results come from flawed questions.


The results of an opinion poll will vary, and not by a little, as a function of how the questions are phrased. “Do you favor special preferences for minorities in the form of affirmative action?” will attract many fewer favorable responses than “Do you favor efforts to help minorities get ahead in order to make up for past discrimination?” And then, of course, there are “push polls,” which only pretend to sample people’s views while attempting to influence them: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Congressman McDoodle if you knew he was a practicing Satanist?”

I find myself thinking about how much more—and less—there is to polling than meets the eye whenever I come across one of those surveys that school administrators like to distribute to parents. I have to assume these are not intended as the equivalent of push polls, that there’s a sincere desire to be responsive to the community and an honest pride in being able to cite “data” to judge the effectiveness, or at least the popularity, of school policies. (Data good.)

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How Do We Break the Pattern of Poor Teaching for Poor Children?

Teaching that encourages creativity and critical thinking is increasingly reserved for affluent children.

Almost every proposal for "school reform" is top-down: divert public money to quasi-private charter schools, pit states against one another in a race for cash, offer rewards when test scores go up, fire the teachers or close the schools when they don't.

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