We started the Third Future blog three months ago with the intention of sharing our true vision for what a new education system can look like. If you are new to our blog, this is a great place to start. Today we are highlighting our last 11 blog posts with quotes from Third Future Schools CEO, Mike Miles that demonstrate the bigger impact we are working to make in the American education system.
What does truth, a scatter plot, and perspective have in common? Consider the scatter plot below that shows a correlation between time spent doing math homework and success on the math exam. And consider point “A” on the plot and a student’s statement that she “knows that doing homework is not related to success because she doesn’t do any homework and still gets good grades.” You see, the one data point – her dot – is “true” for her and provides some perspective, albeit narrow. Similarly, how many times have you heard a middle-schooler start a sentence with “I know, because . . .” and then provide only one data point of evidence: “. . . that happened to me” or “that’s what happened to my uncle,” etc.
In my last blog, I wrote about a “culture of essentialness,” which is part of our design principle #7.The other half of that design principle is a culture that embraces accountability for improvement and outcomes. Unfortunately, our profession continues to move away from accountability. The “A-word” is associated with an unhealthy focus on student achievement or an environment that does not agree with an everybody-gets-a-trophy and at-least-we-tried culture. But accountability does not have to be heavy-handed nor unfair. Indeed, the degree of accountability should be accompanied by a similar or greater degree of support.
I want to know why Starbucks was open yesterday. The districts surrounding four of our schools in Colorado and Texas closed yesterday because of icy roads or temperatures in the single digits. Most people reading this blog will be so used to school closures when the weather is cold or inclement that they will assume it was necessary – you know, safety and all. And certainly there are times when schools should close due to truly dangerous conditions, but yesterday?
Let’s play. Imagine you are a principal of a chronically failing school that is trying to turn around. The school has 25 homeroom teachers (25 classrooms of students). I’m going to give you one million dollars at the end of the school year for properly staffing your school the entire year. Seriously, the district or network is going to give you $1,000,000 after just one year. Of course, you will ask me what “properly staffing” means and how we would measure it. It’s simple: properly staffing is measured by the number of days of high-quality instruction every student receives. You get a million dollars, principal, if every class of students in your school receives high-quality instruction every day, every period (for 185 student-teacher contact days).
I have argued that the American public education system is broken and that only wholescale, systemic reform will change the system enough to get significantly different outcomes. However, very few school systems are willing or able to implement wholescale reform. “Systemic transformation” often turns out to be a change of only one part of the system – it turns out to be incremental and piecemeal.
The New York Department of Education recently banned the use of ChatGPT in their schools. ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence tool that can provide quick answers to questions and write high-school level, high-quality essays for students on almost any topic. The Department’s main argument is that the tool does not build critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
It was over ten years ago, but I can still remember many of the things that happened that Christmas as if it were yesterday. We lived in a very poor neighborhood in Colorado Springs, a half mile from Helen Hunt Elementary School. My father was in Korea, and my mother was ready to have her eighth child.
Where have all the heroes gone . . . long time passing? Where are they – John Deasy, Cami Anderson, Michelle Rhee, Chris Barbic, Hanna Skandera, Joshua Star, Dwight Jones and others – the leaders in education who were willing to make the tough decisions few others are prepared to make; who were willing to take bold action to transform failing systems and were willing to pay the political, physical, or personal costs in the attempt?
Are schools essential? For almost every educator, the answer would be, “of course!” What if “being essential” means that the organization provides such an important service or public good that the suspension of that service will greatly harm the public? Even then, I believe most schools would still claim they are essential. And the public, still raw from the trauma of school closures due to COVID, would undoubtedly agree.