This past weekend afforded me an opportunity to notice some things at a hotel that, as I thought, can be compared to many educational situations. It has to do with looking good versus being good. I also heard someone comment; “She is amazing because she is beautiful from the inside out.” The proverb “beauty is only skin deep,” (first found in a work by Sir Thomas Overbury, 1613) is normally used in relation to people however, I believe in education we could say “usefulness is only student success deep.” Success being measured by understanding and ability to demonstrate what are now being called “college and career readiness” standards.
The hotel I stayed at served wonderful looking scrambled eggs for breakfast. Unfortunately they contained an overpowering amount of vinegar only detectable upon eating (and then promptly spitting out). It does a fine job of preserving the look and life of the eggs, but is inedible and therefore, ultimately fails its purpose.
· How many times have we implemented programs that make our schools look as if they are cutting edge, but in reality fall short of that lasting or significant impact we desire? Or even better, we buy into new reforms and programs (as they come out in new packaging) without giving enough time or effort to the “old” ones to prove themselves or enough thought to the effectiveness of the new ones beyond the fancy jargon.
· Fidelity of implementation when it comes to programs is good or bad depending on the context.
The iron that is attached to the ironing board so that it acts as a unit and saves space. Unfortunately, the cord that attaches the iron to the base is too short to reach the whole board. This in turn causes the attached base to be in the way. Not to mention the base was affixed to the wrong end of the board.
· This issue pertains to budgets and fiscal policies aimed at creating schools that are able to brag about efficiency before success. How many stories contain the two aspects of success and spending less as if one is no good without the other? While it is important to be financially responsible there are times when it is not about what it costs, but what you need.
· I am reminded of the old phrase; “you get what you pay for.” I am a taxpayer who does not mind saying; “Sure my taxes are a little higher, but have you seen how awesome our school system is? People move here just for that!”
This hotel I stayed at was beautiful. It was almost a “Taj Mahal Hotel.” Does that phrase sound familiar to what we were calling new high schools a few years back? For the most part, everything on the surface was good, but it was the extras (that would have really made a difference) that were lacking. Does that also sound all too familiar? I could go on with multiple little details I noticed, but I believe the point is clear…
Let’s all be sure we are “all in” when planning and implementing researched based programs. Not so that it looks good, but so that it is good. By good I mean effective for those who are most in need…our students. In the end, they are going to care about how prepared they were rather than how good they looked.
We need to stop implementing programs for the sake of implementing programs.
We need to stop cutting budgets for non-essential reasons.
We need to stop adding more initiatives rather than thoroughly completing what is already underway.
We need to stop; take measure of who we are, what we do, and why; follow Lincoln’s advice when he said; “Well done is better than well said.” and realize that being good is much better than looking good when it comes to successful education.