Are We Paying Attention to the Right Issues?

As educators, we typically focus on three areas when we discuss our children’s education:

1.)  What content or standards do we teach?
2.)  How do we organize our education delivery systems?
3.)  What instructional practices will best resonate with 21st century learners?

Content and Standards
Let’s examine standards. We have spent the last several years debating standards, ad nauseam. Common Core or traditional standards? Many states are retreating from Common Core because of mounting pressure to develop their own standards.

But I can’t find a curriculum specialist anywhere who believes there is a significant difference between Common Core standards and traditional standards. They are essentially the same.I’m not saying this debate was useless, but I am saying we’ve spent way more time and energy on it than we need to.

Our Delivery Systems
The second area we’ve spent an enormous amount of time on is our delivery systems. Should we or shouldn’t we push charter schools? Should we or shouldn’t we adopt vouchers? What about career pathways? I repeat: These are necessary topics to discuss. We have just spent too much time going back and forth.

Focus Here!
In our work with the nation’s most rapidly improving schools, our consultants at the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) have found something consistent in these schools: they focus almost exclusively on instructional practices

They ask themselves: Which instructional practices do I use to reach a generation that grew up with technology and instant gratification? A generation that is active and engaged. A generation that is growing up in a different environment than the adults who are today’s teachers.

Do these schools ignore content and delivery systems? Of course not. But these schools do emphasize instructional practices above all else. And we think that’s the right approach.

The focus is not simply on covering content and basic skill development. They focus is on the application of knowledge and skills. For those familiar with the Rigor/Relevance Framework, the focus is on Quadrants B and D. Most schools driven by the tests are focused on Quadrants A and C.

So, let’s stop our endless debates about topics that lie on the margins and instead focus on what matters! Focus on helping apply knowledge with real-world examples and skills you are now teaching.