April 20th

This year, April 20th was Easter. So that is my excuse for not remembering the Columbine High School tragedy on that date.

I was reminded yesterday because I started re-reading my own book and the first chapter is about school safety and discipline. These are tough topics to cover in a short blog but here is the gist of it….

Misconduct —be it disrupting a class, bullying, or outright violence—is a symptom. We would be foolish to think it will ever go away completely; we would be wise to recognize that we must always work to identify the underlying cause as soon as a problem is acknowledged. We shouldn’t just look away and think things will get better without conscious efforts.

Many school and community people do understand that the best thing we can do is prevent behavioral problems—the causes of the symptoms. The “means” aren’t easy but the “ends” are necessary for existence of a civil society.

The school climate and classroom conditions that are conducive to learning are the same climates and conditions that prevent bullying and other disruptive behaviors. Creating the right learning environment (where it doesn’t exist) and continually fostering that environment is the best we can do.

So how much attention is the public giving to these issues of such importance?

Common Core, and the whole standardization movement, has dominated the national conversation on education. We are all getting sucked in! Me too.

But now I’m resisting except I must once again make this point; “standards” are being confused with expectations. And “standards” are being given unjustified priority in education reforms.

If we are going to talk about “expectations,…

…” they should be about ideas like the ones offered by Carl Bosch in Schools Under Siege: Guns, Gangs, and Hidden Dangers (1997). He recommended that we “hold high expectations” of students. But he asked that we “clearly define expectations of respect, dignity, and responsibility.”

These are “standards” of behavior the public system of free schools should feel obligated to promote.

My notes from back in 1999 (now 15 years ago) indicated Bosch stressed that primary prevention of discipline issues resides in:

1) uncovering the reasons behind inappropriate behavior,

2) the proper training and teaching of the skills children need, and he stressed that

 3) consistency and fairness were important qualities for children to learn that adults should model.

Yesterday, this quote came across my desk and I consider it helpful….

“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments – there are consequences.”

Robert Ingersoll

Today, I hope all will step back a moment to remember and consider what is important. And we should be thankful that some still remember the tragedies and many still work towards solutions — every day.

April 20, 1999

April 20, 1999

Excellence as the Norm

Improvement — now there is a thought-provoking word! We instinctively know what it means but I’m once again off to grab the dictionary. Literally, it means an increase in excellence of quality or condition.

I like to think of education reform in terms of school improvement because if we aren’t focused on the quality of education and the conditions under which we expect children to learn, what’s the point?

Use standards as an example. If a standard isn’t excellent, it can’t guide improvement. And if the conditions in which we expect a standard to be met aren’t excellent, what are the chances real lasting improvement will occur?

The literal meaning said an increase in excellence of quality “or” conditions but I would hope people can understand that for school improvement we need both high quality teaching “and” excellent conditions under which learning takes place.

We can monitor outcomes until the cows come home but we won’t get real education reform until we supply the necessary inputs that create quality learning conditions. It’s up to us to provide the conditions conducive to creating a societal culture that values education and will unquestionably support classroom climates where excellence is the norm, for all.