During this incredible week of student posts and conversations, I’m sneaking in a brief post because it’s important to keep informed about Oregon’s new Chief Education Officer, his role, and his possible impact on raising standards and achievement (and hopefully a love of learning) in Oregon schools. In a recent article (“Oregon School Officials Set Low Goals, Angering Education Chief Rudy Crew”), we get a glimpse of Crew in his new leadership role. Oregon has recently received a NCLB waiver and schools submitted their achievement compact plans (as per Kitzhaber’s new state-wide plan) to detail district goals for achievement in the upcoming school year. In this article, it appears that Crew’s anger stems from a number of mostly unnamed (except for Gladstone) bigger districts that are setting low goals for student achievement in the next year.
The setting of low expectations and the response from Crew both deserve examination. For me, both raise important questions. We all know that students will rise to higher expectations if challenged to do so, but in an atmosphere geared toward standardized testing, evaluating teacher performance based on student scores, and labeling schools in a new but similar way to NCLB (we can not pretend that the labels “priority” and “focus” do not mean “in needs of improvement” even though they have a more hopeful tone), can we expect schools to set higher standards with the possibility of failure? In my experience, those moments when I failed often ended up being my best learning experiences. Being willing to take a risk means that we could have huge success or the opposite, but maybe in this culture of mediocre learning standards and restrictions on creativity and critical thinking, a risk is worth it. And maybe Crew is asking us to take that risk?
When my children enter school, I can only hope that they will be allowed to take chances without fearing punishment or utter failure. As a newish parent, I’ve already realized that if something is not good enough for my own children, it’s not good enough for any child in my community. And if it’s not good enough for any child in my community, it’s not good enough for any child in Oregon. Let’s find concrete ways to support schools, kids, teachers, and administrators this year to really work together for real achievement…even if we have to take big risks.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts? Do you think schools are at fault in these low expectations or is there more to the story?