A New School Year with Unprecedented Challenges!

Never have we begun a new school year with as much enthusiasm as students are bringing to the first day of this 2021/22 school year. Even man of the children who have traditionally dreaded the return to school look forward to seeing friends, favorite teachers, and a return to some semblance of normalcy. It will not be the same normal, of course, as we cannot yet know how the year will play out and what the new normal will be.

We must not get so caught up in our own enthusiasm we forget there will be other children who will return to school with trepidation. Many of these children have taken refuge in such things as shelter-in-place, quarantine, social distancing, and remote learning.  For them, the return to school will be traumatic and teachers and administrators must be prepared to recognize the signs and help such students make the transition. We have all read about the mental health crisis facing children, post coronavirus. Post-traumatic stress disorders can have a devastating impact on the lives of children as well as adults.

There will be many children from families whose lives have been forever altered by the coronavirus. Many will be grieving for family members whose lives have been lost or have had to deal with the trauma of separation from loved ones during prolonged hospitalizations. The children of these families have had to live and may still be living with the fear they and other members of their family are vulnerable and may face greater risks upon return to school.

There will be classmates, across the aisle, who have witnessed and maybe embraced the anger and frustration of parents over what they call the Covid pandemic hoax perpetrated by conspirators perceived to be “radical leftists in a government out to destroy their democracy.” Some of our students have stood with their parents during anti-vaccine demonstrations and protests over mask mandates.

As teachers strive to form relationships with and address the varied emotional issues with which their students will be dealing, they must begin to assess and address the disparity between what students have or have not learned during long stretches of remote learning. Given the variance of the progress or regress of students, do we choose to remain loyal to a tradition of moving students forward as a class, from one benchmark to the next, per our respective state’s academic standards or, do we try something new that will allow us to focus on building relationships and differentiating based on the unique needs of our students?

Do we encourage students to share their experiences from the last eighteen months using oral, written, and other forms of communication or expression? Would such stories be beneficial in helping children of such divergent points of view gain better insight into classmates who view and interpret the world through different lenses?

Given the crises we have faced, even if from different perspectives, how fervently do we seize the teaching/learning opportunities presented  by the full range of events of the last few years?  How do we factor in the demands of parents concerned what we teach in school will conflict with what they teach at home? Will there ever be a better time to use current events to broaden the perspectives of our young people and find our way out of a contentious political and social environment where the truth has become whatever we choose it to be?

Even if we choose not to incorporate such discussions, formally, it seems inevitable these issues will come up during the normal course of events. How do we prepare our teachers to deal with them?

Has there ever been a better time teach our students the value of education and how the knowledge and skills they acquire will determine the number and kinds of choices and opportunities they will have as they transition from childhood to the responsibilities of citizenship? It will not be many years before today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders, faced with the challenge of seeking resolution of many if not all these issues, or finding common ground. Do we strive to help them prepare for that responsibility or do we shun our own responsibilities?

The experiences during the coronavirus and such controversies as the Covid Pandemic hoax, social distancing, anti-vaccine protests, mask mandates, and other conspiracy theories have changed us and have changed the world. Some changes have frightening implications for the future. The blessing is, the Covid pandemic has provided an incredible opportunity to make a fresh start, to do something new and exciting in many aspects in our lives, not the least of which is education. Has there ever been a better time to reimagine the education process that dictates how we go about educating our children.

The reader is urged to examine The Hawkins Model© created to provide a new way to help our students learn as much as they are able at their own best pace, even in such times as these. An overview of The Hawkins Model© can be found at www.melhawkinsandassociates.com.  Please examine it not seeking reasons why it will not work rather striving to imagine what it would be like to teach and learn in such an innovative environment.

How much proof do we need that what we are doing is not working?

How much proof do we need before we acknowledge what we do in our schools isn’t working and commit to trying something new? A grading period or semester; a year, a decade, or generations? These are our kids we’re talking about, our children and grandchildren.

Not every problem has an easy solution but what is so difficult about giving students a little more time to learn things they will need to know to make a decent life for themselves; things they will need to know to provide for themselves rather than be dependent on the rest of us? Time is an essential variable in the education equation.

Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s that I stay with problems longer.”

Is America better off with a system that impedes the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn?

Is America better off with millions of people who do not understand the science of climate change, infectious diseases, and other natural sciences?

Do we benefit from a population of millions of people who do not understand the way a democracy is supposed to work or what the U.S. Constitution means?

How is it working out to have elected officials at every level of government, who are more focused assigning blame than putting their heads together to solve the problems of a troubled society? Leaders who spend more time claiming people who disagree with us cannot be trusted, are conspiring against us, and are trying to get something for nothing.

Are such leaders and other public figures correct when they tell us the only way to keep and protect what we have is to keep other people from getting what they need? The solutions to the problems we face as a people will be found by looking out into the future, not by looking to return to a past that was never as idyllic as we like to think it was. Look at the world around us.

We have an education system in which more than half of our students do not learn things well enough they can use what they know in the real world.

We have a healthcare system that makes a lot of money for a few people but does not allow all of us to get the medical care needed to treat the illnesses and injuries of our families.

We have a justice system that seems incapable of providing justice for every citizen.

We have a society that does not provide equal opportunities for everyone.

The problems we face as a society will not be solved by us. The future will be determined by the efforts and talents of our children. Maybe we should focus our attention on doing a better job of teaching future generations what they will need to know to create a better future for their children and grandchildren.

The only way to accomplish this is to change how we teach all our nation’s children, not a fortunate few. We have great teachers. We need to give them an environment where they can practice their craft  and teach their students what they will need to know. The solution to education is right here in front of us. All we need to do is act.

Schools, children and grandchildren, students, teachers, America, Is America better off climate change, infectious diseases, natural sciences, democracy, U.S. Constitution, elected officials, assigning blame, education system, education, healthcare system, healthcare, justice system, justice, equal opportunities, future generations, change how we teach, education equation, Albert Einstein

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The Hawkins Model©: Serving the Primary Purpose of Education, Part 1

Everything we do in our schools and classrooms: the way the education process is structured; the way we organize our resources; the expectations placed on principals, teachers, and students; what we do from day-to-day from subject to subject; and how we keep score must serve and support our primary purpose or objective.  Initial and intermediate objectives are just that. They are building blocks, laying a foundation of pre-requisite knowledge on which future learning is constructed. They are essential  and cannot be sacrificed without diminishing  quality.  With respect to the quality of education, it is the future accomplishments of our citizens that are placed at risk.

Consider the tragedy flowing from the collapse of buildings and bridges—not due to age and deterioration, to which even human beings are at risk—rather from architectural and engineering flaws that could have been avoided had protocols been properly observed. There can be no shortcuts without sacrificing quality.

It is like a home run in a baseball or softball game. A run does not count unless all bases are touched. If a batter misses one of the bases, coaches will send he or she racing back to touch the base that was missed before the defense can respond. Fail to touch the base and the baserunner will be called “out” and a run will not be scored. In cases such as this not taking time to correct a mistake has consequences.

One of the five most fundamental and consequential flaws in the existing education process is not providing students with adequate time to correct the mistakes they make, to practice skills, gain mastery and comprehension of the subject matter—not giving them time to learn. The consequence of not having time to learn results in students being pushed ahead before they are ready. Each incidence places a student a little further behind and has a compounding effect, setting children up for failure. Repeated failure causes children and adults to give up and stop trying.

Time must be an asset available to students in whatever quantity their success demands and not a parameter. Arbitrary schedules and calendars were instituted to serve organizational convenience and efficiency and do not serve the purpose for which our schools exist. The purpose of education is to accord students, at graduation, with the highest level of preparation they can attain—of which they are capable. The number of stumbles, struggles, and mistakes made along the way matter not at all; just as it is inconsequential how long it takes a child to learn how to ride a bicycle. Such events are learning opportunities. The only thing that matters is a young man or woman’s ability to apply what they have learned to their best advantage in life, which also creates the best advantage for one’s community.

This is one of the purposes for which The Hawkins Model© is designed!

In upcoming posts we will address each of the fundamental flaws of the existing education process, flaws that diminish the value of the hard work all teachers and students do.

To my friends on Twitter: A request for your assistance!

If you are receiving this Tweet, you and I have followed each other on Twitter for a while and I thank you for the “Likes” and “re-Tweets,” and for reading a few of the posts on my blog, Education, Hope, and the American Dream; including this one. Below I will be asking you for your help.

I know a few of you are familiar with my education model and I hope this note will entice more of you to examine it.  The Hawkins Model© is designed to assure every student’s success. I fervently believe this model has the potential to transform education for every child in America and I consider it the most important work of my life. I hope you share my belief that never have our nation’s children needed a quality education more than they do, today, and never has our society had a greater need for well-educated citizens.

Many of you know I have been working on second book on education with the working title, The Hawkins Model©: Education Reimagined, One Success at a Time. I had anticipated the book would have been finished by the last quarter of 2020. Due to a non-Covid-related health issue, which I wrote about in a blog post of February 19, 2021, I was unable to work on the book for nearly a year. Now, four months later. I am only just beginning to make meaningful progress and I want completion of the book to be my highest priority. This means sacrificing some of my blogging and Twitter activity.

Completing the writing is only part of the challenge, however. I must also reach out to superintendents, seeking public school districts to test my model in one of their struggling elementary schools. I, also, must find a literary agent to represent me in my search for a mainstream publisher.  Each of these achievements will serve the other.

It is now apparent to me, if I am to be successful, I will need the help and advocacy of people like you.

I am seeking educators and advocates of public education who will allow me to add their names to a list of professionals who deem my model either, 1) worthy of implementation in schools or, 2) believe it merits serious examination by the leaders of school districts, whether public or parochial.

As I solicit representation by a literary agent or consideration of a school district, having professionals willing to provide some level of endorsement would be a great advantage.  So, my request to those of you who know me through Twitter and are familiar with my writing, is that you take an hour or more to read the overview of The Hawkins Model© at my website.

If you come away believing the model has the potential to make a positive difference in providing a quality education to all students, I ask that you send me a message authorizing me to use your name and/or Twitter handle as an advocate for the model, to whatever degree you feel comfortable.

Because my visibility on social media will diminish when I am not Tweeting or blogging, I am also asking you to share your decision to support my model with your friends, followers, and colleagues as frequently and in as many ways as you are able.

This is a lot to ask, I know, and I understand not all of you will be motivated to give me that level of support. I respect that, just as I respect each of you. I encourage you to contact me with your doubts and questions.

Those of you willing to help me will be given an opportunity to review my book as I approach a final draft. I will be seeking only feedback, however, not editing. I have someone to help me proof.

Thanks so much for whatever level of advocacy you can provide. As it might be helpful for you to be familiar with what I am communicating to superintendents, I have included a generic copy of my message to them at the bottom of this post.

Thank you for even thinking about offering your support.  I have gained so much knowledge and insight from all of you it is difficult to express how much I appreciate you. I feel blessed and am most grateful.

Mel

Here is my message to superintendents:

Re: A Game Changer

Dear:

After visiting your website and reading about your district, I have no doubt you do an exceptional job for your students. Like most educators, however, I am certain you agonize over kids who struggle no matter what you do or how hard you work. What critics don’t get is, no matter how valiant their efforts, even great teachers and administrators cannot make a dysfunctional education process work for every child. It is only because of their heroic effort that so many kids enjoy success at all, but many is not enough!

This post-Covid era provides an opportunity to transform the way we teach our children but seizing it will require bold leadership. You are among the first superintendents being asked to test The Hawkins Model© in an elementary school, this fall. I assure you implementation of the model will be much easier than you imagine. It will be transformational, and the decision to act is already within you and your board’s purview. The model will be offered to public and parochial schools for free.

Let me tell you how easily the model can be implemented. Although instruction will still be guided by academic standards, progress will be a function of a student’s success rather than arbitrary timelines. Transformation will require a few adjustments to the way you organize your teachers and classrooms and how long they remain together. Although a few minor physical modifications of classrooms would be nice, they are not essential and will be at the bottom of your priority list.

Other significant changes are redefinition of purpose, changing expectations for principals and teachers, and simplification of the expectations of students. Students will be expected to learn as much as they can at their own best pace. The model is constructed on the premise all children can learn and failure is not an option. Kids must receive whatever time and attention they need to learn.

How we teach will be altered to focus on both the primacy of relationships between teachers and students and converting time from a parameter to an asset available to kids in whatever quantity their success requires. Once students have learned, how long it took to learn becomes inconsequential.

Until the education process is reimagined to produce the quality outcomes our kids deserve, too many high school grads will continue to leave school with limited choices and many students of color will remain ill-equipped to overcome the ravages of discrimination. We cannot legislate a solution to all of society’s challenges. It is only through education we can ensure meaningful opportunities for all students, render children of color impervious to discrimination, and begin to change the hearts of a nation. Given the importance of education we can leave no stone unturned.

Please ask your most innovative people to help evaluate my model at my website at The Hawkins Model© Given the ease with which it could be implemented and the potential benefit to students, the appropriate question to answer might well be, “why would a school district choose not do this?” The Hawkins Model© is a game changer.

I look forward to talking to you soon.

The Hawkins Model© – the Perfect Solution for the Post-Covid Challenge in Our Schools!

What we hear on the news, night after night, is how concerned educators and parents are that their kids have fallen behind during the almost a year and a half of a pandemic that has placed the entire world in turmoil. It seems only logical we are striving to figure out how to help students catch up. The question is, catch up with what?

Educators and parents are encouraged to step back and rethink their concern about the need for students to catch up and get back to where they would have been had their lives not been so unexpectedly disrupted, for what seemed like forever. Unfortunately, none of us can go back to where we used to be or where we think we should be. Life is forcing us to create a new normal and this presents us with an incredible opportunity to change the course of history.  

Educators are preparing to make decisions that will have long-term consequences for every single one of our children, so let us be sure to make the best decisions possible. The truth is, we cannot help students catch up nor should we.

We must change our perspective so that we can understand our students are not behind—”they are where they are,” to paraphrase a popular idiom.

Our challenge must not be to return to our practice of pushing kids ahead more quickly than they are ready, which has long been one of the most devastating flaws in our existing education process. Most of our students have been pushed ahead before they were ready from one lesson to the next, since Kindergarten.

Educators worry about test results, but what test results have revealed, for decades, is whole populations of students who are behind where someone thought they ought to be. Our interpretation should be something else, altogether. What test results reveal is that what we have been doing has not worked for millions of children. Do we really want to repeat the mistakes of the past?

Let us re-clarify, for ourselves as well as for our students, that our mission is and has always been:

“to help children learn as much as they are able at their own best pace, in route to whatever future they will choose for themselves, some day.”

We must have no illusions our children will all end up in the same place on graduation day, all headed in the same direction, any more than we should cling to the illusion they should all be at the same point today, or any other day, on an arbitrary academic development track.   

Not only is it true “they are where they are!” it is equally true “what they know is what they know, not what we think they ought to know!”

It is from what they know, today, that our schools should restart the marathon, helping students along  a path to get where they will someday want or need to be, at their own best pace; not a pace designated by arbitrary standards and schedules.

A truth we already know but must be reminded of is millions of children start from behind on their first day of school and most of them never catch up; not because they are incapable of catching up rather because the education process is not structured so that helping them catch up is a priority.

The Hawkins Model© is designed to do what we should have been doing all along; determine where kids are on an academic preparedness and emotional development continuum, beginning on the day they become our responsibility, and then tailor an academic plan to help them progress, one success after another, toward whatever future they will choose for themselves, someday.

Our initial goal must be to help all students build a solid academic foundation and a healthy self-esteem on which they can create their own unique futures. It does not matter who gets where, first; what matters is learning enough to give themselves meaningful choices.

What matters, whether we are talking about reading, writing, math, science, social studies, or learning how to ride a bicycle, is not how fast they learn, or how quickly they make up lost ground. The only thing that matters is whether they have learned to ride that bike and utilize everything else they have learned to get to where they need to be or to go.  Our objective must be applied academics—how well can young people apply in real life, all they have learned.

We do our students no favor by pushing them beyond the cusp of their capabilities. Instead, we must remind ourselves, repeatedly, everything our students learn today becomes the pre-requisite knowledge and skill they will need to learn the lessons of tomorrow and all the tomorrows that follow. If they reach a point where their portfolio of pre-requisite knowledge and skills is empty, we have set them up for failure; the kind of failure from which many of them will never recover.

If we began today, by this September of 2021, we could implement the principles and practices of The Hawkins Model©, adapted for the age and grade level of every student. From that point forward, students would begin moving from one success to the next where they will always find themselves well-prepared.  

One of the exciting things about teaching kids to think of success as a process is once they master that process, their pace of learning will accelerate until the next thing we know they have progressed further than they could ever have gone had our minds been focused on catching up.

Troubling Questions for Troubled Times

In what kind of world do we want our children and grandchildren to grow up? What kind of people do we want them to become? What questions would you add?

Do we want our children and grandchildren to believe all people are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, or that some people are entitled to privileges because of who they are?  

Do we want them to treat people with respect and dignity or to think it okay to insult, ridicule, accuse, or attack other people?

Do we want them to be kind to one another or hateful?

Do we want our children to view the colors, shapes, and sizes of our bodies and the languages we speak as varying shades of beauty or do we want our differences to be a basis for judging others as good or bad?

Do we want them to live in a world where all lives matter, or a place where some lives matter more than others, and some seem to matter not at all?

Can we teach them police reform is not advocacy for lawlessness rather a demand, through better training, that law enforcement professionals rise to a higher standard?

How do we teach our children and grandchildren the best way to protect our rights is to protect the rights of others?

How do we teach them rights must be balanced by responsibility?

Do we want our children to learn to respect freedom of religion or learn it is okay to impose their religious beliefs on others?

How do we teach them their rights do not allow them to infringe on the rights of others?

How do we balance the interests of individuals against the good of the community?

When did it become okay to view people who disagree with us on important matters as evil, or unpatriotic, or un-American?

What happened to the days when there were issues about which reasonable men and women could disagree?

When things go wrong, shall we teach our children to find someone to blame or should we teach them to work together to find solutions that work for all?

Will the interests of society be better served when all children have a quality education or should a quality education be reserved for a fortunate few?

Do we want an education process in which all kids learn how to be successful and how to develop their  potential or an education process that functions like a competition in which some kids win, and others lose?

Do we want our children to think of science as an honest attempt to understand how the universe works, or as a strategy to justify a point of view?

Is history an opportunity to learn from the past experiences of human beings and their governments, or is history something we are free to change to justify whatever we may have done or want to do?

Is it okay if the way we teach children does not work for every student?

Do we teach our kids to always tell the truth or that it is okay to lie if it will help them get whatever they want or do whatever they want to do?

When did the truth become whatever we choose it to be?

How will life be for our children if they live in the world where there are no fundamental truths on which we can all agree?

Let us not forget we are all who and what we learned to be.

A Story of a Special Man!

If you wonder how much of a difference one individual can make, consider this story about a man named Charlie. His life offered a wonderful example of the power of relationships. He passed away a few years ago but he lives on in the hearts of many of the people he touched, both students and teachers.  Every few years, I like to pull the story out, dust if off, and delight in the memory of this special man with whom I spent only a few moments of my life.

Charlie made an enormous difference in the lives of literally thousands of young people and hundreds of adults in the high school all three of my children attended.  One of the teachers who worked with him shared Charlie’s story in a letter to the editor of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, a few weeks after his death. Otherwise, few outside of the Wayne High School community would have known about this special man, and the quiet but enormous impact he made.

Charlie was a black man working in a high school that was somewhere between ten to fifteen percent black. He did not have an impressive title, did not make a great deal of money, had no formal authority, there were no letters after his name, and he was neither a star athlete nor a celebrity.  Charlie’s stature as a powerful positive leader came only from the force of his personality, his dedication to his job, his love of people, and his God-given ability to make people feel important. He was a human being who, out of the pure generosity of a loving heart, accepted responsibility for making his corner of the world a better place.

I first heard about Charlie years ago when my kids were in high school, but it did not make a great impression on me.  I just assumed Charlie was one of the kids at school.  The first time, and one of the few times I met Charlie, I was working as a substitute teacher in this high school I thought I knew so well.  Like other teachers, I was monitoring the hallways during the passing period, standing by the door to my classroom. It had been a rough day and I was reeling from difficult period of a math lab class when this man came up to me. 

He was dressed in a suit and tie and it never would have occurred to me he was a custodian until he grabbed a broom from a cart he had left a few feet away and swept up some debris from the floor.

“How is it going, today? Is there anything I can do for you?” He asked.  “You just call me if you need something,” he continued and then proceeded to rattle off his name and extension number.  He shook my hand and smiled before continuing down the corridor and I watched him, trying to figure out who in the heck he was. 

My eyes followed him as he spoke to a couple students he passed. From the smiles on their faces I can only assume he was smiling, also.  Moving on, he gave another student a high five, and then stopped to pick up a couple of broken pencils that lay on the floor. 

A dozen yards farther down the hallway a young girl had been leaning against the wall, alone.  I had noticed her earlier as she had a lonely and forlorn look about her and I suspected she had been crying.  As this custodian drew closer, he drifted over to her and then stopped and smiled at her and put his hand on her shoulder. 

 This made me immediately suspicious because we are told, frequently and pointedly, not to touch the students, especially members of the opposite gender.  I could not hear the words that were spoken, but after a few seconds the girl offered up an embarrassed smile, followed seconds later by a laugh.  Charlie lingered a moment, in quiet conversation, and then sauntered off, dishing out more high fives to students as he passed.  When I looked back the girl was still there, standing in the same spot but she stood a little taller and had a smile on her face.  Whatever this janitor had said to her must have been something she had needed to hear.

 Later in the day, in the faculty lounge, I asked a teacher about the custodian in the suit and tie.  He laughed, and said, “well, that would have been Charlie.”  He went on to say, “he’s a very special guy around here and both the kids and staff love him.” 

 I asked others about him, including my youngest daughter, now a teacher herself.  Whoever I asked, just the mention of his name would evoke a smile, and everyone proceeded to tell me pretty much the same story. “He is everybody’s friend and always has a kind word for you,” my daughter explained.

Charlie, God rest his charitable soul, was a beautiful human being and positive leader.  He took his job seriously and took pride in keeping things clean for the students and teachers.  Even more importantly, he reached out to people to share his positive attitude.  He accepted responsibility for making this high school a better place and for making its people feel special and important. 

He had a special ability to sense when someone—teacher, student, or substitute —needed a kind word, a high five, or a warm smile and I am certain Charlie never wasted an opportunity to share his gifts.  None of these activities could be found in the job description of a school custodian but Charlie made them a part of his daily routine. They were a part of who he was.

This man demonstrated it was not necessary to have a title, formal authority, or even someone’s permission to be a leader and to make a positive difference to the world and its people.  All one needs is a belief that people—all people—deserve our best effort and that we can make a difference. While doing what most people would consider an unimportant and mundane job, this man changed the world around him. He did it by reaching out to people with a generous heart, simple acts of kindness, reassuring words, and a genuine desire to make each of them feel special.

Gifts such as this may brighten only a moment in an otherwise stressful day, but we never know how much of a difference we make when we give the best of ourselves with joy and affirmation.  It is a lesson from which all can all learn when we wonder if what we do matters. We can choose to believe every job, well done, adds a little beauty to the world and every smile or act of affirmation can make a difference in the life of another human being.

No doubt Charlie believed he had the most important job in the world. By having a relationship with each of them, Charlie made a difference in the lives of twelve hundred students and a hundred members of a school’s faculty and staff, while keeping their school clean for them, year after year after year.

It was the relationships that mattered. Given what we can learn from Charlie, imagine what a teacher can do in his or her classroom by doing the best job of which he or she is capable and by making every student feel special and important.

Relationships are everything in life and they are everything in teaching.

God bless you, Charlie.

Why #SchoolChoice is an Unfortunate Distraction rather than a Solution for the Challenges Facing Education in America.

So much of the energy devoted to education reform and improvement, in recent years, has been focused on charter schools and the “school choice” movement. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of a charter school, what was once an intriguing idea has become an unfortunate distraction to our efforts to transform education in America. 

In one respect, charter schools are just like so many of our nation’s public schools in that some are more successful than others and others are not successful at all. The value of charters, if they were utilized as initially conceived, is they provide an opportunity to create a laboratory, if you will, to experiment with new and innovative methodologies, outside the framework of the traditional public school system. The charter concept is now used for a totally different purpose. Advocates have concluded that letting parents choose the best school for their children is the solution for education in America.  

On the surface, the logic seems to resonate and the need for lotteries provides evidence of demand for some charters. The other side of that coin is an inability to meet demand in a local community begs the question of how “school choice” can serve the needs of fifty million American children.  This is one of the fundamental flaws in the argument that “school choice” is the solution for the U.S.  If creating charter schools for every child is impractical, what is the purpose of “school choice?”

Are “school choice” leaders content to offer a way for some families to escape what are perceived to be bad schools, assuming they win the lottery. Are they okay with letting the rest fend for themselves? What are the consequences for public schools who must operate with fewer resources and, possibly, a more challenging student population?

Another flaw is the pervasive belief that low academic achievement is the result of bad schools and bad  teachers.  Parochial schools and charters can also be found on both ends of the performance continuum. That aggregate academic performance has not responded to a bevy of innovative methodologies and initiatives, introduced over a period of decades, ought to give reformers pause.

If the problem is not who teaches and where but a consequence of what they teach and how, we are on a path to inevitable failure. We must be willing to open our minds to the obvious and address the dysfunctionality of the education process at work in schools throughout the U.S.  Ignoring the true cause is comparable to treating Covid 19 with a litany of antibiotics that cannot, now, and will never kill the coronavirus. Incorrect diagnoses rarely produce favorable prognoses.

If we want better outcomes for our students, we must do more than change school buildings and teachers. We must change what we ask teachers and students to do and what we expect them to accomplish. To paraphrase motivational icon, Zig Ziglar, if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep getting the same disappointing outcomes.

It is not that advocates of “school choice” are bad people rather they are misguided. The only future the “school choice” movement can offer America is an education system that will become increasingly more bifurcated. It is a future with many winners, to be sure, but with far more losers because the push toward privatization siphons the lifeblood from public school districts, whatever their track record. We must reduce the number of Americans who could be counted among the “have nots,” not widen the chasm that separates us.

Now, looking back, we can tabulate the opportunity cost from years of disappointing academic achievement because we chose the wrong path to meaningful education reform. The other portion  of that opportunity cost would be benefits forgone; benefits that would have accrued for the millions of our sons and daughters whose academic distress could have been replaced by successful achievement.  

Click on this link to examine The Hawkins Model© and you will learn more about the dysfunctionality of the existing education process and how we can change the future for every girl and boy in America. You are also asked to believe it is not too late to act; in fact, this may be the perfect time to make a change.

Kids Learn from Experience to Acquire Pre-requisite knowledge: A Lesson on Dysfunctionality

Even though we do not think about it, how we learn in the classroom is just a variation of learning from experience. Lesson presentations, practice assignments, review sessions, quizzes, and tests are all experiences gained in the classroom.

In education, we place too much focus on mistakes and failure.  Of course, we learn from mistakes; in fact, that is where much learning begins.  We try something we want to learn but rarely do we accomplish it, to our satisfaction, after the first attempt. We must strive with determination.  With each unsuccessful attempt, we gain more experience which, in turn, allows us to make adjustments that produce better outcomes.  For most of us, it may take multiple attempts before we are fully satisfied with the outcomes we experience, whatever the endeavor.

Often, we refer to our unsuccessful attempts as mistakes, but in the minds of many people, educators included, the word mistake is often mistaken for a form of failure, if you will forgive the pun. We would be better off to use the term “disappointing outcomes.” Whatever we choose to call them, however, what they represent are “learning opportunities.”

 Mistakes/disappointing outcomes do not rise to the level of failure unless we give up and stop trying; until we settle for less than a full understanding of something, or less than subject mastery.  In our classrooms, students do not choose to stop trying or settle for less than their best and, it is not their teachers who make that choice for them. The decision to abandon one lesson and begin another before students are ready to move on, is what the current education process requires of teachers. Giving up is what the education process has been teaching  many children to do from their first day of school. We have not been prompted to think about it that way.

Teachers are unknowing facilitators in this process because it is what the education process demands of them. Every time teachers must record  a C, D, or F in their gradebooks, that grade becomes a specific, documented example of a student who has been required, by the education process,  to give up and stop  trying before they have gained comprehension;  before attaining subject mastery. Once that window closes on a given lesson, rarely do kids get another chance.  

This is only half of what we must come to understand as one of the most dysfunctional components of the education process on which teachers and students must rely. The other half of the dysfunction has an equally devastating impact on our most vulnerable students.

What we learn from our successes is no less important than what we learn from our unsuccessful outcomes. Every time teachers are required to move students on, ready or not, the education process deprives a child of an opportunity to experience success.  If there is no success there can be no opportunity to celebrate success, to relish in it, take pride in it. These students are deprived of  essential  building blocks of confidence and self- esteem; and  it happens to millions of children, hundreds of times, every school year.

Each of our experiences whether good or bad, positive or negative, successful or unsuccessful, acceptable or unacceptable, expected or disappointing, satisfactory or unsatisfactory are learning opportunities.  We learn from experience, not just mistakes, each  one of us, both learners and teachers. Think about what this means to our students and it becomes apparent why this discussion is so important.

Success in learning leads to proficiency. We become proficient when we have acquired the ability to utilize what we have learned in real life situations, whether they be subsequent lessons, state-competency examinations, college-entry applications and exams;  job applications, qualification for military enlistment; and, solving problems on the job and in our everyday lives. We need to think of each lesson  we ask our students to learn as an opportunity for them to acquire the pre-requisite knowledge and skills they will need to achieve success on future endeavors, whatever the venue or level.

Once we grasp the magnitude of the devastation wreaked by the existing  education process we have been utilizing in our schools for generations, we must feel compelled to change the way we think about what we do and why. How can we rely on an education process that deprives millions of children of opportunities to acquire the prerequisite knowledge and skills they will need for the rest of their lives?

Our existing education process is dysfunctional to the point of obsolescence. Is it any wonder there are so many American men and women who seem unable to make informed decisions about the cogent issues of this 21st Century, and who rely on the leadership of demagogs and conspiracy theorists to tell them what is true and what is not?

The good news, as overwhelming as this may seem, is that a solution is relatively easy to implement. Reimagining the education process is what The Hawkins Model© has been designed to do. One of the things it requires is that we utilize time as an independent variable in the education equation, rather than a constant or fixed asset.  You are invited to check it out at www.melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/

Sometimes the answer is right in front of us!

Sometimes the answer to our most important questions can be found right in front of us. Often, we are so distracted by what we are asked to do and why, the simple truth is obscured. This is particularly true with respect to the American education process and the way we interpret and respond to the results of the high-stakes testing to which both students and teachers are subjected.

Let us apply some simple logic and utilize it to ask the question:

“What do the data from standardized tests tell us?”

As a point of clarification, let us confirm we are referring to data from the high-stakes testing we administer to our students, each Spring. Further, let us utilize one of our least favorite yet one of the most common forms of assessment, the multiple-choice question. Let us phrase the question:

Select the answer that best describes what we learn, each year, from the standardized tests administered in the schools of our state?

a) Some schools are failures and should be closed or replaced by charter schools and other alternatives;

b) Many classroom teachers are incompetent and overpaid and should be replaced by technology or by paraprofessionals;

c) Many students in the U.S. are incapable of learning, particularly poor and minority students;

d) The education process, with which teachers are expected to do their important work, is ineffective in meeting the needs of a diverse population of American students?

Understand, our answer to this question drives education policy decisions at the local, state, and federal level.

If we choose answers “a”, “b”, or “c”, policy makers will continue to pursue a combination of the policies of the past and their preferred education reform initiatives, the most popular of which is  “school choice.”

If we choose, “d”, something different must happen. We will need to step back and challenge our assumptions about what we do and why.

What we will discover, despite the best efforts of our teachers, is the existing education process is neither organized, structured, tasked, nor resourced to give students the quality relationships they need to be successful; the amount of time they need to learn each lesson so they can apply that knowledge to future lessons and other real-life situations; and, the opportunity to experience and celebrate their success. Every student must learn success is a process that must be mastered, just like any other skill set.

The reader is invited to examine an education model that has been reimagined to make these essential functions the focus of everything teachers do for their students. What most people will be surprised to discover is the relative ease with which such changes can be incorporated. Please review The Hawkins Model© at my website, melhawkinsandassociates.com.