People ask me all the time, what makes a school great? The better question is, great for whom? For teachers? For students? For school committees? For taxpayers? For our nation?
Our country is rightly concerned about the quality of education. Both IDEA and the Common Core Curriculum are national initiatives designed to ensure that all children have their learning needs addressed as they tackle and meet core educational standards. Standardized tests like MCAS in Massachusetts and the new PARCC exam can be helpful if used appropriately. However, the national backlash against them reflects growing concerns with the huge outlay required in terms of time, money and classroom attention. Unfortunately, the focus on specific, measurable outcomes sometimes pushes schools to teach as if all children learn exactly the same way—but they don't.
At the same time, schools across the country are working hard to become better, stronger, more responsive—often with fewer resources. For some schools, this often means trying to do much more with less. It would be an easier task if all children had exactly the same abilities and needs—but they don't.
Learning Is Individual
The fact is that learning is never simple and learning is never the same for everyone. Learning is complicated, messy, confusing, and not as easy as it sometimes seems. Research tells us that while there are predictable milestones to human development and general patterns of learning, individual learning differences are often dramatic. Differences in interest, in enthusiasm, in personality are also dramatic. Learning, it turns out, is as individual as we are as people.
What Makes Schools Great
At Schools for Children, we are committed to helping schools respond to children as individuals—that's what we believe makes a school great. We want to help schools create room for every student to be heard, the space to listen to what each student genuinely needs to move forward, and the time and expertise to teach students in effective—and joyful—ways.
Educating children as individuals is harder and often more expensive than teaching children as if they were all the same. As schools grapple with cuts and political pressures, opportunities for learning to be complex and individualized are reduced. Our mission is to help schools preserve and enhance what it takes to be great and to create new programs that respect the individual and can be models for others.
This belief is what motivated us to create and launch a special initiative: the National Institute for Student-Centered Education. It has driven us to bring professional educators together in a conference format (INSPIRE 2013, 2014) where we can share our ideas and voice our beliefs on how to best reach and every child.
Schools for Children, when partnering with a new school, can give that school time to focus on education instead of administration. We have been successful in managing and supporting new schools and creating and piloting new ideas and services. With those schools, we can create models of education for other schools to learn from. At Schools for Children, we'll continue to promote learning approaches that help teachers reach kids as the individuals that they are. We'll train, we'll inspire and we'll lead.
Come join us!
Executive Director, Schools for Children