Sunday, August 9, 2009

Is it Scalable?

It seems that many of us school administrators who are writing through blogs right now are really interested in education policy.  There are probably two reasons for that:  one is that we are all really well versed in the current policies of No Child Left Behind and they have had a major impact in all of our professional lives and more importantly the lives of students and two is that we have a new president and secretary of education who have us all interested in what is going on and what changes lie ahead in our future.
Sometimes principals go to a conference and are implored by the various speakers to raise our collective voice when it comes to policy, especially with No Child Left Behind and now with the current conversation of national standards and experimenting with merit pay.  I follow these policy conversations as close as I can or that time allows but for some reason I find myself getting less and less intellectually interested in all of the debates.  Why?
I am helping to lead a change effort at Greer Elementary of learning about and implementing Expeditionary Learning in our school.  Expeditionary learning is a network of about 150 schools across the country and it essentially offers intensive support and professional development to schools in its network.  It is criticized at times for not being scalable?  It is intensive work that requires deft and authentic leadership by more people than administration, and requires us all to be very thoughtful about what we do with kids.  We are finding again and again that these things are not scalable in the current education policy debates and think tanks.
When I hear this I wish instead that we spent more time talking about how to replicate the kind of education the Obama children are getting than how to pay teachers differently.  How do we support more schools to be thoughtful, reflective, accountable, authentic?  I have no idea but I find little discussion of how to actually do this myself, let alone across the country.
What are the things that are scalable in our country right now?  Fast food, pop culture, Starbucks, etc.  Is this what we want to replicate in education? 
Is expeditionary learning scalable?  I don't care.  But we need to look at why reforms like expeditionary learning are so difficult to implement and make those systemic changes instead of just looking at the things that won't directly effect kids.  
I know I have to work on my thinking a bit more with this and will try in some posts in the future.  I guess I am just tired of us all implementing changes that make us feel better but don't impact what we believe about learning and what we do on a day to day basis with kids.

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