Sunday, August 28, 2016

Scores and Scholarships are our Products, But What Business are We In?

Recently I overheard the founder of Starbucks say, “Coffee is the product we make, but it is not the business we are in.” These profound words rang in my ear long after hearing it. The words made me think; what about education, are we focused on the right things? And, if we shift our focus, how does that affect our product?

I would argue, that grades, scholarships, and scores are the products we create, but uncovering students’ passions and purpose, developing their critical skills, and creating a generation of informed citizens is the business we are in. You see, in secondary education, we must begin to see our “why” differently. We have to start connecting college and career with everything we do because in four years or less our students will enter the workforce or the college classroom whether they are prepared or not. And the truth of matter is that an exclusive drive for the product will never uncover a student’s real potential.

Our fix and our approach to our “why” is through Career Academies. Our students no longer take random electives, but rather select from a narrowed list of classes that directly relate to their career or college pathway. These electives then, allow for the student to find a purpose, explore the skill necessary for that field and become more informed about life after school.

Recently I heard an amazing story of this transformation. As a parent approached the podium at a recent civic organization meeting, the parent began with “My child hates school.” She goes further to describe a child that never wanted to go to school, would come home depressed, and said that her child could not find a reason for school. However, recently something changed, she said. Suddenly her child began waking up before everyone. She became excited about school. The only thing that changed was that she had become a career pathway student. She found a purpose. She no longer viewed school as a random collection of mathematical theorems for passing a test, but rather a series of constructed skills that can open the door for her chosen career.

Again, I ask what is your “why?” Is your “why” to create standardize test scores? If it is, I don’t blame you, after all that is how our schools are measured. But how is that helping students for their future? And if we are only focused on test scores, then isn’t that actually selfish on our part? To me, that is kind of like hearing a business owner say, “I just want to be rich.” You see a business leader without a why is erroneously directed. When a school’s focus is only on scores, then students lose focus, lack interest, and all motivation dissolves. However, when the purpose is added, and passions are uncovered, students can become a better version of themselves.

I will finish with this, our goal as educators should be to balance student career and college development with how the school is measured–test scores and scholarships. A singularized aim on either initiative would perpetuate a wrong focus. If schools begin to concentrate on the business of student preparation then the school’s product, I believe, will take care of itself.

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