APS has announced a new Office of Innovation, link. It cannot succeed except marginally.
Public education in general has a fundamental flaw; the relentless focus on the needs of arbitrary groups of students as opposed to individual needs of students. There is no such thing as a group achievement gap except that someone has gone to the trouble of compiling one. All achievement gaps are individual. All achievement gap problems have individual solutions.
Despite the many available alternatives, the relentless objective of public schooling is to take up to thirty kids with nothing in common but the year of their birth and a zip code, and then seat them in five rows of six desks, there to join into a thought choir; each student on the same page in same book on the same day. That fundamental premise remains unchanged and makes real innovation impossible.
The only innovation will be in innovative ways of dealing with groups of students at once; standardizing individual performance; teaching and learning in unison. Cemetery seating is obsolete, it cannot be re-tuned into usefulness.
Imagine a stock car race. The stock car superintendent announces that from now on, innovation will be not only allowed but encouraged. You can do anything you want to make your car run better and faster. No holds barred.
Rule number one remains unchanged; at the end of every lap, your car and the others must cross the start/finish line in formation - five rows of six cars, no one allowed to move ahead, no one (supposedly) allowed to fall behind.
For as long as students take standardized tests every year, they will take those tests seated in formation. Test scores cannot be allowed to fall, so teachers will continue to have to teach to the testing. Innovation will be "permitted", innovation will be "encouraged", but only on top of everything else teachers will continue to have to do in support of high scores on yearly standardized tests.
Innovation and standardized testing mutually exclusive.
Innovation is about maximizing individual performance.
Standardization is about maximizing group performance.
Before the modern age, it was necessary to group students.
You had one teacher, maybe one book, and one source of knowledge. In the modern age, access to knowledge is virtually unlimited. There is no good reason to standardize learning for no good reason.
There is no good reason to spend power and resources in an ongoing effort to standardize individual performance. The mission of modern schools has changed. The mission now is to create independent lifelong learners at the earliest opportunity.
An equally important mission is to grow children into adults who embrace character and courage and honor.
President Theodore Roosevelt said;
"To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."Re-introducing character education in the APS, will not be one of the innovations allowed nor encouraged. APS will continue to produce menaces to society and their victims, past, current and future.
photo Mark Bralley