She presented descriptions of four different schools:
- We believe that all students can learn, but the extent of their learning is determined by their innate ability or aptitude. This aptitude is relatively fixed and, as teachers, we have little influence over the extent of student learning. It is our job to create multiple programs or tracks that address the different abilities of students, and then guide students to the appropriate program. This ensures that students have access to the proper curriculum and an optimum opportunity to master material appropriate to their ability.
- We believe that all students can learn if they elect to put forth the necessary effort. It is our job to provide all students with the opportunity to learn, and we fulfill our responsibility when we attempt to present lessons that are both clear and engaging. In the final analysis, however, while it is our job to teach, it is the student’s job to learn. We should invite students to learn but honor their decision if they elect not to do so.
- We believe that all students can learn and that it is our responsibility to help each student demonstrate some growth in a learning environment that is warm and inviting. The extent of the growth will be determined by a combination of the student’s innate ability and effort. It is our job to encourage all students to learn as much as possible, but the extent of their learning is dependent on factors over which we have little control.
- We believe that all students can learn and must learn at relatively high levels of achievement. It is our job to create an environment in our classrooms that result in this high level of performance. We are confident that, with our support and help, students can master challenging academic material, and we expect them to do so. We are prepared to work collaboratively with colleagues, students, and parents to achieve this shared educational purpose.
Then she asked the participants to think about four questions:
- Which school did you attend when you were a student in the grade level where you currently teach?
- Which school would you want your “most important person” to attend?
- Which school would students in your school say they attend if you asked them?
The conversation that took place in large and small groups, as well as the stories Drew faculty told about their experiences in school, were really powerful and revealing. I could see teachers begin to shift their thinking and want to lean more towards the 4th definition. Wouldn’t we all want school to be more like #4?