A LYS Superintendent shares the following:


A teacher (with a known agenda) sent a mass email to a bunch of superintendents. As you know, I love reasoned and spirited discussions so I responded. And in return, I received a second round of “questions.” See below for the new questions and more of my responses.

Thinly Veiled Questions Mass Emailed to Texas Superintendents:

Questions again… Do schools fear excellence as well as failure?  

If all of your students could be achieving at or above levels similar to those of the students of Jaime Escalante in the movie, Stand and Deliver, would you implement a program that would achieve those levels… above the norm?  

If you knew of a program that produced elevated success and mastery at an exceptional level for any interested student, would you want it (as an administrator) knowing that it would upset the structure of the system?  

Exceptionalism requires flexibility and that would upset the design of “the apple cart.” Mastering material at exceptional levels wouldn’t appear to work with CSCOPE because, as you said, the scope and sequence is important and vital to CSCOPE.  “Accelerated mastery” would allow the option to break out of that timeline.   Is it possible to have two programs running side by side?

This Superintendent’s Response:

I don’t know if schools fear excellence, but it is certainly true that excellence comes at a price, and it is also true that most schools are not willing to pay that price.  As Jim Collins writes, “Great is the enemy of good.” 

As soon as you start pushing, people start screaming for balance.  The problem is the physics of balance. To get a balance you have to take away from one side to add to another.  In the terms of education, to get a “balance,” you have to take away from children.  In essence we are saying, we could do a better job for kids, but that would require that adults give up something else (and this is not pointed at educators: Politicians – All revenue increases aren’t bad; Voters – Infrastructure has to be built, maintained and paid for). So as long as it is someone else’s child, the adults in our state overwhelmingly choose mediocrity instead of sacrifice.

As to programs, I have NEVER seen a school “program” itself to success.  The path to success is perfecting tradecraft, in our case, instruction.  The never-ending hunt for excellence in instruction has to be pursued with vigor should we want to become truly excellent for our children.  Escalante was a legend.  He was also rare. I would guess there is not 1 teacher in a 1,000 like him. This is neither a critique nor an indictment. Consider this, there are a lot of good NBA basketball players.  But a Dr. J, Magic, Jordan and LeBron show up once a generation.

Exceptionalism requires flexibility.  That may be true.  And it may not.  For example, the greatest athletes on the planet have very inflexible training programs.  Certainly I think you can be exceptional AND flexible, but I think it also very possible to be excellent OR flexible, which in a logic statement would also be excellent AND inflexible.  It is also possible, and perhaps most likely, to be neither excellent NOR flexible.  

Certainly CSCOPE is not perfect, but you are targeting the result and not the cause.  CSCOPE is a school response to the state’s push for rapidly and constantly changing accountability, as I have discussed before.  As long as high stakes testing and accountability exist in their current forms, there is no choice but to have something like CSCOPE.  So the driving force that destroys creativity, flexibility, and exceptionalism is accountability and high stakes testing.  CSCOPE is merely a tool.  

Is it possible to have two programs running side by side? Certainly.  But most schools can’t even get the basics down, much less run two systems. It would be nice if schools could walk and chew bubble gum, but most can’t.  The sad reality is accountability does indeed destroy some excellence; no doubt about it.  BUT, it is easy to get into a circular argument on the issue.  You see, if the Escalante’s of the World were 900 out of a 1,000 instead of 1 in a 1,000, there would have never been an outcry for accountability and high stakes testing.  It is enticing and satisfying to believe that the vast majority are chasing down excellence for all of their students, but the reality and the data don’t support that argument.  Indeed adults seek a “balance,” and in most cases the adult balance that is found is an unfavorable imbalance for children. There are many people who have the strong belief that if you take care of teachers they will take care of kids. I wish that was a 100% truism, because it would make my job much, much easier. 

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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