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The Power of Why, Part II

Posted September 18, 2012 in Community Blogs, Urbandale

Last week’s blog began the conversation about the “power of why” when thinking about educational transformation.  I shared the idea that we have an educational system designed to meet societal needs during the time of the industrial revolution.  However, 150 years later the needs of our society and world have vastly changed and in order to meet needs of the future, our educational system is in need of improvement.

The ramifications of our current system on our children, staff, community and country are vast.  I invite you for a moment, to think about the transformation of our educational system and consider yet another response to the question “why.”

A study of the book Improving Student Learning:  Applying Deming’s Quality Principles in Classrooms by Lee Jenkins included a focus on student enthusiasm for learning.  I read eagerly about how the Enterprise school district in Redding, California conducted a three-year student attitudinal survey for students in grades K-8.  Before turning to the next page to view the results of the study I already had a strong hunch about the results.  As a former elementary teacher of 13 years I was confident the results would reveal that students loved school in the elementary years, with enthusiasm declining sharply into the middle school years.  Imagine my shock, as I turned the page, when the results showed a decline in enthusiasm beginning after kindergarten!  According to the study, over the course of nine years student enthusiasm dropped 50 percentage points.  The findings of this study cause me to wonder to what degree those results may apply to schools today.

One’s first reaction to these results might be to try and cast blame on people.  However, I don’t believe it is the fault of any one person or group, for I see people working harder than ever.  Rather, I believe the results are driven by the current system in which students and educators work.  It is in knowing we have the power to redesign and improve the system that gives me great hope!

The “power of why” compels us to ask why we should seek improvement/change in our current system.  I offer that we have the opportunity right now to improve our system so that it yields the results we desire.  Together let’s begin to paint a picture of a system in which highly engaged students and educators experience joy in their work; authentic joy that stems from having a sense of purpose and autonomy and the ability to achieve high levels of mastery in learning.   This is exactly what we are working toward in Urbandale.  Our shared vision plants the dream for us to be a district that “brings learning to life for everyone.”  Can’t you just feel the potential here for us to do something special?  I do!I invite and encourage you to dream with me here on this blog to help paint this picture as our question evolves from “why” to “what if.”


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