In my EDL 680 course, which is a Seminar for Personalized Learning and Leading Through Technology, we are reading Yong Zhao's "Catching Up or Leading the Way." A section that caught my eye was on input-oriented accountability, which as Zhao puts it, measures the quality of schools by looking at the quality of educational resources and opportunities they provide to each student."
This is timely as the Academy of Arts and Sciences begins to look at charter renewals for three of our five charters we operate (the other two are due for renewal during the 2017-18 school year). I spent the afternoon today at the California Charter Schools Association offices in LA, sitting through their Charter Renewal Workshop. In addition to revisions and updates to the charter document itself, authorizers want to see, and EdCode stipulates, the presentation of data. They want to see the program is successful, and successfully impacting the lives of those who attend the program. Some of the data points are cohort graduation rates, absence numbers, and test scores from the SBAC test. The State Board of Education is working on a new matrix, and the CCSA has some standards as well. What I learned today is if AAS does not meet certain thresholds, even as a member of CCSA, they would advocate against our charter renewal. Luckily, I believe we are meeting these standards.
But are they correct? Should we be judged on test scores, when even folks like myself are not the best test-takers but can show my understanding in a different way. Is this truly a personalized approach, or one that believes every American child is the same: learns the same, applies knowledge the same, and the like. Or would a better measure of success for a school like ours be more in line with an input-oriented accountability system? Some of the measures that Zhao shares include teachers ("does the school have a staff that is highly qualified and motivated to help students learn?"), curriculum ("does the school implement a broad and rigorous curriculum relevant to all students?"), opportunities to be different ("does the school make arrangements to enable students who have different talents to pursue the?), and more. These are interesting data points, and ones that would show a commitment to each individual scholar. In fact, it would help make the point of our mission statement at AAS: "to inspire and develop innovative, creative, self-directed learners, one scholar at a time."
As I continue with SDSU's program, I continue to learn new ways of thinking and am excited to share these ideas with my professional networks and my colleagues at AAS.
In my EDL 680 course, which is a Seminar for Personalized Learning and Leading Through Technology, we are reading Yong Zhao's "Catching Up or Leading the Way." While only on chapter four, I am seeing a new perspective on how the educational system in the US has evolved over the years.
Before diving in too deep, I do want to share my personal excitement that the author is now a professor at Michigan State (though I did not attend MSU, being a Michigander it is nice to read his work) and has kids in Okemos Public Schools, a great public school system in Ingham County.
As a history major, it is true that history repeats itself. What is interesting to read in Zhao's book is the history of educational reform in the US and some other reforms in general. Much of what has transpired over the years has happened due to fear and politics, sometimes both together and sometime exclusive of each other. It was interesting to read how then US Senator John F. Kennedy used the Soviet Sputnik launch to win reelection to the Senate and later the Presidency, all because then President Eisenhower was focusing US resources on other initiatives while the Soviets were increasing military might. In a later report, that was found to not be the case. The same has been happening with the educational system: the US is falling behind the Soviets, Japanese, Germans, Chinese and Indians. That was part of the reason for No Child Left Behind, where a large focus was placed on testing, more specifically testing in math and science.
An educator now myself, in a arts and sciences charter school, the section I found most telling (so far in his book at least), Zhao talks about a talent show in Okemos that his daughter participated in. As he put it, "The lack of standards and assessment may provoke some critics of American education to argue that these kinds of practices lead to a lack of rigor in education, and it may be precisely that attitude that has caused American student's low performance on international tests. But I argue that activities such as the talent show at Central Elementary School represent one of the greatest strengths of American education for a number of reasons." His reasons include the talent show being inclusive, that the talent show encourages initiative and responsibility, the talent show sends a message to the community on the importance of valuing different talents and that everyone is talented in their own way, and that the talent show helps everyone to be proud of their strengths as opposed to their weaknesses.
I think Zhao is spot on with this assessment. One of the things we are focusing on at the Academy of Arts and Sciences is personalized education for each of our scholars. The other is ensuring they are prepared for their future success. It is important to note, as this was a long discussion with our vision statement (all 70+ of our employees participated in the discussion of our new vision statement), that we are not just preparing our scholars for college. Not everyone will go to college, so it is important to prepare them for whatever they choose is next in their life after high school and to be able to be successful.
The strength, then, is not solely on assessment and grades earned in coursework, but honing and refining talent which comes in many shapes and forms. We know the business world is looking for innovation; perhaps we all need to host more talent shows.
What a week! I return from Sacramento, filled with pride in an organization I joined in the spring of 2004: Phi Kappa Tau. Phi Kappa Tau is a men's social fraternity, which prides itself of building men of character.
We gathered in Sacramento for our 62nd National Convention; over 300 undergraduate and graduate Phi Tau's from across the nation. We conducted business, networked and enjoyed brotherhood. I was honored to serve as the Chair of our Community Service & Philanthropy Committee and host our panel on SeriousFun Children's Network.
During our Awards Reception, I was honored to be inducted into the 2016 Class of Phi Tau's Under 40. I was also humbled to have been awarded the Stennis Award for my work as the former Great Lakes Domain Director. This is the second time receiving the Stennis Award, the other was in 2013 for my work as the former Tidewater Domain Director. It was also great to be able to present Community Service and Philanthropy Awards to many of our chapters as the National Service Advisor.
Brotherhood events such as National Convention remind me about some of the values I try to live by: leading, learning and serving. Phi Tau is one of the reasons I remain involved in my community, and one of many reasons I am enrolled in SDSU's MA.EL program! Damn Proud to Be.
J.J. Lewis - a blog sharing the journey throughout SDSU's MA.EL. program.