One of the rituals of working in education is the annual writing of the goals. Every school, every school board does it and then publishes for all to admire.
What happens after that varies wildly. I’d venture to guess that in most cases the lofty statements are largely forgotten and the cycle begins again the following year.
However, something strange is happening with the process in our overly large school district this year.
The school board actually wants to know how we (us lazy, evil central office types) plan to show that the “strategic goals” are – or are not – being met.
Of course, those six goals are somewhat vague, word-smithed statements through which a whole convoy of 18-wheelers could easily pass.
Take for example, our “technology” goal.
Students will use technology to access, communicate, apply knowledge, and to foster creativity.
Other than the stilted phrasing, that’s actually not bad. I would have written the statement to replace technology with “information management tools” (or something similar), but still not bad.
At least it says students are supposed to use technology to learn important life skills rather than learning about the technology itself, which is the form this goal would have taken a few years back (“acquire 21st technology skills”).
Now comes the hard part. How do you actually show that students are using technology in that way? And that they are doing it better than they had in the past?
As you might expect, everyone has their own interpretation and the first draft is very firmly rooted in the mode of “course completion” and standardized tests.
But there is a glimmer of hope.
Last week, when another group presented the first draft of the “indicators of success” for their area, the board told them to go back and try again.
Members wanted to see more authentic and alternative assessments, not just that students were passing the standardized tests.
That may not seem like much to you, but in this multiple-choice-masquerading-as-knowledge culture, that’s a big step in the right direction.