Monday, January 24, 2011

Middle vs. Junior? What's the best practice?

Numerous school districts are considering reorganizing their schools for the middle years. Here's another example of the confusion over school reform and the implementation of so-called best practices.

Bethel and Puyallup currently use the junior high model (grades 7-9 in the same building, 10-12 at the high school) and are considering--or moving to, in Bethel's case--the middle school model (6-8 in one building, 9-12 at the high school).

Tacoma currently uses the middle school model and is considering moving to the junior high model.

Somebody (maybe two somebodies), in other words, is quitting best practice and moving to second-best practice.

Herein is reflected the conceptual and practical muddledness of 'best practice'--it's too hard to determine, measure, evaluate, etc., when you're talking about the widely diverse, even divergent, needs of such large numbers of people engaged in such a wide range of different tasks.

Yes, if we say 'raise the test scores' is the primary goal--and so much of what the reward and consequence structures communicate is just that, then we can more easily identify a best practice to accomplish that.

But we live in some measure of denial that we elevate (almost reify) 'test scores' the way we do, and so we allow ourselves to also pretend that we can identify the best practices for everything else, then drive toward all those other goals, too, all without ever facing the ways that those different goals might conflict with each other.

As I've mentioned before, it's hard to take seriously the talk of 'educating the whole child' when what we really care about are the outcomes of basically three tests--Math, Science, and Reading/Writing.

More on this some other time.

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