Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Richard Tagle, CEO, On School Reform and Motivation.......

On September 6, 2010, Robert Samuelson authored, School Reform’s Meager Results. The op-ed identified what Samuelson believes to be the two main reasons that school reform has failed. First, no one has effectively brought to scale a transformative reform approach, and second, students lack motivation.

I agree with the first reason and suggest that we are asking the wrong question about scaling reform. Perhaps reform approach itself is not a “scalable” element. What need to be scaled are practices that have proven to improve student performance. District hiring practices, interactive classrooms, and team-based approaches to professional development have brought positive outcomes not just in schools, but also in other institutions that require system-wide implementation. This country knows how to scale. We have more than doubled the number of people in prison, have more than 8 million children uninsured, and have more than 20 million of people out of jobs. We know how to scale. The real question is whether we have the will to scale those practices that bring about positive change.

On Samuelson’s second point – student motivation – Higher Achievement has been fostering student motivation for over 35 years. Each student in the program devotes more than 650 hours of rigorous academic work in addition to the 900 plus hours they spend in school. By providing solid opportunities to learn, excel and shine, Higher Achievement motivates students to work hard and to be engaged in their learning. Students become motivated when they know people are investing time, energy and resources in them. When we see them as assets and talent and not just assembly line widgets, they respond by proving that they are worth the investment. They rise up to high expectations and meet challenging demands. We have to believe in their promise and potential before we can ask them to exert effort. This “belief” is also something this nation should learn how to scale extremely well.

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