Year-end In-and-out list
It’s that time of year. Time to look at past trends and future forecasts to decide what’s in and what’s out in fashion, music, food, words, etc. This list is about public education, and some of it’s aspirational, but here we go.
In: letting parents find an education setting that works for their families
Out: giving every student just one assigned option
So many reasons have popped up for this one in the last year or two. Parents want their children and everyone around them masked. Parents don’t want their children to have to wear a mask all day. Parents want everyone vaccinated. Parents want vaccination to be a personal choice. Parents like, or don’t care, about their school’s curriculum. Parents care a lot about their school’s curriculum. Regardless, the single, assigned option is “out” and letting every family avail themselves of at least one alternative is “in.”
In: school board meetings that include parents and the community
Out: school board meetings with no one but the board in attendance
People have discovered an interesting fact in the past year—school boards actually impact what happens in school buildings, including selecting curricula. Who knew? School boards create textbook selection committees. They hear from textbook publishers. They weigh the options and approve curricula. A broader understanding of their role will (hopefully) make broader participation in their decisions “in” and forgetting they exist “out.”
In: innovative new learning environments
Out: every student learning in a room with a teacher at the front and 20 other students
When schools shut down, parents didn’t just go along with that program. They joined with other families and created micro-schools in someone’s basement. They sent their children to karate academies or churches for guided virtual learning. They decided to join the homeschool movement. They founded Boys and Girls Clubs, or some other nonprofit, that morphed into an outright school. Necessity is the mother of invention, and public education became inventive. The 1950s education model got tossed “out” in favor of bringing “in” new models of learning.
In: giving teachers autonomy and flexibility
Out: step-and-ladder pay scales
School shutdowns also affected teachers. Some teachers didn’t like teaching virtually; others loved it. Some teachers discovered that teaching just ten students in a micro-school means applying skills more directly, and no staff meetings or red tape. There is a massive opportunity for good teachers to take on gig work as tutors. Joining a school district at the age of 23 and staying in the same district until the age of 55 to be “taken care of” with a pension until death is so “out,” and teachers as entrepreneurs who can be paid directly to teach is “in.”
This list could go on. The bad news is that we are in the middle of a tough road back to recovering learning loss for so many students. The great news is that we’ve been forced change some of the old ways of doing things in favor of parent empowerment and engagement, systemwide flexibility and autonomy, and the notion that one size definitely does not fit all.