By Tina Rooks
Imagine the impact on consumer sales if “adequate” replaced words like “ultimate,” “good,” or “best” in the taglines of top selling brands. Now consider the widely publicized expectation of our public education system that all schools must attain “adequate yearly progress.” By definition, adequate is average or acceptable. Certainly neither is the most aspiring adjective.
Successful Fortune 500 companies do not include “acceptable” in their mission statements. Coaches do not encourage a team to be “average” before the big game. Instead, to promote a message of quality that is not conveyed with the lackluster “adequate,” they use phrases such as “exceed expectations” and “set the bar high.”
When did adequate become good enough for our educational system? What impact is this mindset having? And most importantly, how do we break free from this low expectation?
Adequate became good enough with the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act that mandates yearly growth models. A byproduct of NCLB, “adequate yearly progress” resulted in a K-12 system focused on high stakes tests with average expectations. Schools across the country scramble to attain the label “meeting adequate yearly progress,” which offers bragging rights and newspaper headlines to those that make the cut. This arbitrary designation of meritocracy ignores testing inconsistency, teaching to the test, questionable test validity, cheating scandals, and students who are performing adequately but may be not be learning.
What is the impact of this low expectation on our educational system? There is a direct correlation between the implementation of NCLB and the international ranking (on both the TIMMSS and PIRLS) of U.S. education. As countries such as Singapore, Korea, and Finland climb in reading, math, and science achievement, the U.S. continues to drop in rank. Results from these annual assessments reveal a disturbing trend. American students scored in the middle of nearly 30 countries in the 4th grade, in the bottom third in 8th, and almost dead last in the 12th.
What can we learn by studying the competition? Could it be that other countries that have leaped over the US are expecting superior performance? For example, Finland placed first in science by a significant 5% margin, second in language, and second in math. This has been accomplished within a very similar school calendar as the U.S. and at a cost of nearly $1500 less per pupil. Significantly, Finland clearly defines its expectation of quality by selecting teachers from the top 10-15% of college graduates with 4-6 years of graduate school.
In the U.S., the recent National Educational Technology Plan (NETP 2010; Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology, Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education, 5 March 2010) provides a specific roadmap for “revolutionary transformation rather than evolutionary tinkering” (v) to raise expectations from “adequate” to “exceedingly proficient.” It urges the US education system at all levels to:
- Be clear about the outcomes we seek.
- Collaborate to redesign structures and processes for effectiveness, efficiency, and flexibility.
- Continually monitor and measure our performance.
- Hold ourselves accountable for progress and results every step of the way.
At first glance, these may appear to be simply lofty goals rather than a practical and effective blueprint for change. However, the NETP provides specific examples, methods and resources that offer educators guidelines to begin disrupting the current model for education and positively affecting student learning.
The NETP is grounded in the belief that technology can both inspire disruption and facilitate methods proven to be effective. The keys to successful transformation are technologies that:
- aid in measuring student learning outcomes
- enable subsequent use of this data to transform education with laser precision
- can be leveraged for research
- personalize the learning environment
- function systemically
Transformation is possible, and high expectations that yield sustainable results need to replace our current model of adequacy. The future of our educational system depends on the highest – not simply adequate – standards to provide the “best a student can get!”
Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: | adequate yearly progress, National Educational Technology Plan, NCLB, NETP, NETP 2010, No Child Left Behind Act, Office of Educational Technology, PIRLS, TIMMSS, Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology