“Whitewashing the pump won’t make the water pure.” (Dwight L. Moody) Whole school reform has to be an inside job. The cleaning, repairs, and reformation that needs to take place will have to be from the inside out. What the school system looks like from the outside is not ever the true picture.
If you are sitting at your desk reading this, push your chair back, stretch your legs and relax. There will not likely not be any profound changes made in the school system as a result of this article, however, I believe seeds (little ideas)found here can lead to reform in classrooms, departments, and eventually schools. The thing is, you need to relax and take in what is written here. Take the parts that work for you and run with them. It is by individuals that these idea seeds will be planted, and through people like you that they will grow. That is where school reform will take place.
You often hear great ideas of new procedures or new ways of doing things that seem to pump you up with excitement and even enthusiasm. You are ready in those moments to get up and go change the world. Hold on to your hat, please, there are others out there who can help you make awesome changes, but if you run with it by yourself you may run over those who would be able to run with you, laying a path that others can easily see and follow. The more people you have with you, the smother the path left behind will be. So, stay in your seat for a moment, think (That is the main thing we are to teach our students to do), and plan. If you run through the jungle with a machete, swinging it to knock down everything in your way, you will end up with a half-beaten path that goes nowhere.
WHOLE SCHOOL REFORM:
What is whole school reform? The simple of it is that it is a complete or radical change in the educational system. However, lets take a little closer look. The word “whole” means all the parts. “School” in this context means the school system in general. While we read of school reform attempts in a school district, or even in an individual school, this context refers to the American school system. “Reform” means to make over or to change for the better. It means to get rid of the bad and build upon the good.
While whole school reform can be a good thing, how one brings about reform can determine it’s success or failure. I agree that “whole school reform” needs to take place, I don’t believe it is can happen by radical new rules and regulations being put into place all at once.
I would like to propose a few possibilities that will involve radical, across the board changes. First, here are some thoughts about what doesn’t need to be happening.
1) Please don’t put reform into the hands of politicians. At the present time school reform is being attempted by our government and is failing miserable and costing millions or even billions of tax dollars.
2) Please don’t request a committee be formed to produce reform policy. A few people cannot possibly know all that is needed and how to implement all that is needed. Nor would they have the power to lead or force change.
3) Please don’t try to fix that which is working. We must take what is working, study it and see why it is working. Those working principles can be applied to some areas where the system is not working.
WHERE TO START: (From the inside out)
If you ask ten people where to start in school reform you will get ten or more different responses. I believe there are plenty of starting places, but I believe we need to first seek to discover the components in the system that can be removed. This will result in less damage, less stress, and less protest from school employees. If we start with this, and there are other ideas that are as appropriate, we will find that we have made the system smaller, leaving less to reform. What components in the over all school system can be removed? There are many different opinions on this issue, but I believe we can actually remove some components, and the task of reform will have been made easier.
STANDARDIZED TESTING: The one thing that comes to mind quickly, and is controversial at best, is the standardized testing system. Some believe, and have good reasons to, that this is a necessary part of the educational process. I personally believe it is the greatest hindrance that the school system has. As I have been in many different schools, and have spoken to people all over the world through the Internet, this one topic appears to be a great thorn in the system. I am sure there are some good aspects of the standardized testing program. However, unless someone can make drastic reforms in this program, it will continue to negatively effect many other components of the educational process.
STAFF DEVELOPMENT: Another area where reform can begin is in staff development programs. Using these programs as a means of inspiration more than teaching, and as a way to free teachers and administrators to take more risks and try new methods in their areas of control, will open doors for reform. It has often been teachers and administrators who have had to “buck the system,” who drastically changed the way a subject is taught, discovered new ways to motivate students to think and learn, and who eventually changed the lives of their students. Many of these are documented and some have even been made into movies. These people were inspired to do something and with or without the support of administration, they put their inspiration into practice. Some of these amazing stories are “Stand And Deliver,” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” In these and many other cases, reform came from the front lines, and evolved through the system.
Total reform will not come from these inspired and courageous teachers, but it is a place where reform can begin. The key is to have staff development produce programs that will lead to this kind of reform.
EDUCATIONAL PROFESSIONALS ALONG WITH FRONTLINE TEACHERS AND STAFF: One last place for reform to start is the obvious. The top educational professionals in the country have the greatest power to cause reform to begin. They must be willing to think out of the box. What is currently in place in the educational system, for the most part, is not necessarily broken. It needs radical adjustments, pruning, and a fresh, courageous and inspirational motivation. We need to get these top educational professionals together, get them to brainstorm, and to step out of the box as they seek to put new life into our educational system. That is not enough though, these top men and women must be open to, and ready to use the suggestions and ideas that come from the front lines. If that doesn’t happen, they will not succeed in creating a successful school reformation.
It all starts with a definite need. The system is indeed weak and in some places broken. Seeking to discover what is working well, and why it is working well, will produce a list of possibilities for how to repair broken elements of the educational system. Seeking to discover what is not working, and what is not even needed, will allow for thoughtful consideration for removing some of those areas from the system. Stepping out of the box, allowing for inspiration, risks on the front lines, and freedom to try new ideas, will put new life into a system that is having a hard time breathing.
Our schools are where we develop our future. We cannot allow our educational system to become a dead sea. We need to discover the springs that will pump life into the system, and we need to remove those unwanted dams that are slowing or even stopping progress. If we want freshness in the system, and that is vital to it’s success, we have to take radical actions in positive directions, allowing for risk and even failure.
Total school reform? Maybe that is not possible if we want to see immediate positive results. However positive reform is possible and will contribute to a positive future. In the process, if we allow for everyone to contribute to that reform, lives will be changed immediately as well in the long haul. My proposal for “whole school reform” is a long term effort, involves everyone in the system, and cannot succeed if government control and political correctness are in charge.