Monday, May 16, 2011

One Sign of a Good School

One of the most vexing problems facing modern public schools and those with a vested interest therein is deciding what evidence of a ‘good school’ looks like.  At one end of the spectrum there are those who swear by statistical results on standardized tests.  In fact much of what passes for ‘educational reform’ is based on various sets and interpretations of numbers. (Though I’ll never for the life of me figure out how the designers of NCLB decided that  ‘punishing’ low performing schools by reducing funding was a good idea!)  Others look at graduation rates.  Our own government uses “satisfaction surveys” to garner opinion around BCs public education.

But anyone who is involved in education will tell you that most of these indicators are blunt instruments at best.  Completely misleading at worst.  Wandering around our school at lunch I was struck by what I would consider as genuine signs of a ‘good school’.  There was intramural ball hockey in the gym refereed by a teacher.  There were students eating lunch with teachers in various classrooms.  There were teachers and students playing pickup basketball together in the gym.  There were students working on various projects in the art rooms.  There was a group of teachers meeting to discuss student excellence in order to award scholarships at valedictory….and the staffrooms were all but empty.

The common theme in all of these was teachers volunteering their own time in order to enrich the lives of their students, in most cases, by simply being there as a responsible and caring adult.  These casual adult/adolescent interactions are what differentiates a true education from simply going to school.  Unfortunately for those intent on putting numbers and values on everything, measuring the value or the outcomes of such interactions is impossible.  The good news for the bean counters however is that fostering a culture where these interactions are the norm doesn’t cost anything.