August 24, 2013

Real change takes courage and leadership

For decades I dwelled in a school district that was cemented firmly in outdated teaching methods. Sure, we got new technology -- a mobile laptop cart here, a few new desktop computers there -- but the pedagogy remained the same. I probably don't have to tell you that the philosophy was to get kids to pass high stakes tests at all costs.

So, each year brought more workbooks, more ill-conceived online reading and math tutorials and a steady stream of district-wide test scores that were, at best, pedestrian.

I rode this ride to mediocrity yearly, until I realized that I had to make change, regardless of the path my district took. Enter results-only learning, and the miraculous transformation it brought. Meanwhile, my school district forged ahead, no change in sight.

True Leaders

I recently worked with some true leaders at a school in Coppell, Texas. These are people who are ready to make major change. From superintendent to building principal to classroom teacher, they are embracing results-only learning -- tossing out archaic traditional methods, in favor of a progressive, student-centered, digitally-enhanced classroom.

They are even altering the way they evaluate learning -- discarding traditional points and letter grades, in favor of narrative feedback. The courage these educators have, leaving behind what most schools in America can't escape -- the chains of workbooks, worksheets and, yes, even grades -- is unparalleled.

So, this is where it begins -- in the great state of Texas. Educators in one school will pilot results-only learning. They will begin a wave of change that might eventually turn into a tsunami.

All it took was real leaders and courage. Well done Coppell!

Don't miss ROLE Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom, now available in the ASCD store, Barnes & Noble and at and Mark's new book, The 5-Minute Teacher: How do I maximize time for learning in my classroom

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