How do you measure the worth of a school?
One thing you can count on is the way we measure the worth of our schools will change. In my 27 years of education, I have seen schools labeled, classified, ranked, and sorted by data gathered from student test results, student achievement in classrooms, and graduation rates. In this time, I have been a part of a team that earned the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, and been a part of a team that elevated schools labeled as low performing and were under state assistance. I have seen schools rewarded cash bonuses for student success, (remember the 90’s), and I have seen schools audited for failure to produce high test scores.
One thing that I have learned along the way is that great teachers and great staff members can be found everywhere. I have worked in three different school districts, (Ludlow, Fort Thomas, and now Dayton), and I can honestly say that I have found many, many, many outstanding teachers and staff members in all three districts. I can also say that I have worked with many, many, many wonderful students and families in all three districts. I can say that all three districts have amazing strengths, and their own unique challenges.
It would truly be very difficult for me to say, “Which one is the best?”, if you mean “best” to be the one district that does the most for their students and families they serve.So, how do we determine the worth of a school? I know some folks want to make schools like businesses and measure the end product. We know the challenges with this theory, as not all schools and not all communities are equal in demographics, resources, and opportunities. We also know that humans are much more complex than “widgets” produced in an assembly line. Some folks want to make schools like sports in which points are earned and rankings are made. Sports are created with the idea that you are going to compete against an opponent.
Recently, I read a report on school assessment in which it noted that one school dominated other schools in the area. I would like to believe that with schools, we don’t look at other school districts as opponents, but as allies in making all students great. We are now approaching a time in which the schools will be on a star rating system, similar to that of a hotel or restaurant. As long as we continue to force schools to model sports and business practices, we will continue to have false reporting, misleading data, confusing report cards, and ultimately, a rating system that undermines the true purpose of schools.
Teachers have students. Doctors have patients. Coaches have athletes. Businesses have customers. All of these groups serve different roles, responsibilities, and relationships and we should not try and make them the same.
Now, more than ever, I am deeply concerned with the thought process of many of today’s politicians at the state and national level that have made our schools and our school children pawns in the messy and ugly world of politics. Too much emphasis is now being placed on “winning” rather than doing the right thing. We need to take politics out of schools and all come together to put Kids First. As adults, we must act like adults, and make responsible decisions that allow for all students to have equal access and opportunities to the American Dream. We owe it to our children to put them first. Their worth is immense.
Proudly serving as Superintendent of Dayton Independent Schools