Overall, on our visits, we saw education that was changing in form, but not necessarily in function. I don’t mean that we saw students sitting in rows listening to lectures. Rather, more emphasis is placed on the programs offered to students instead of the way students are led in their education. We saw many different schools within schools, but not much that had to do with specific instructional strategies.
It is easy to see a culinary, automotive, medical, or engineering program. It looks good. It’s specific. You can point to it and say, “Look, we’re doing things differently.” It’s harder to showcase individual student learning and achievement through different forms of instruction in a 45 minute tour. Therefore, districts lean toward what looks flashy, what will give them the most bang for their buck. We want change to be seamless, but it isn’t. There are always gaps, and we think the gaps are a sign of weakness and mistakes so we hide them behind our strengths. However, this is a false reality we create and the effort to maintain the facade of being perfect detracts from actual improvement.
I don’t mean to imply that students don’t learn or grow in these programs, but I wanted to see the nitty gritty of what they do, not just the generalities. I wanted to see how students are pushed to be independent thinkers who want to learn intrinsically. I didn’t want to see what the program has them do, but what they do in the program.
I was looking forward to seeing what transformation looks like in an English, math, science, history… classroom. All we saw was how whole schools were changing their structure and focus. I feel that this is extremely limiting to our students. It tells them that it is what they can do, not their ability to think, that’s their most valuable asset.