"What About Us?"

Pretentious advocates of equity may sell you "school choice". Do not be fooled. As we witness a display of arrogant and wishful thinking during this week, I received yesterday a copy of a book that captures what really takes to achieve limitless possibilities. In the new book from Solution Tree, "What About Us?", it becomes crystal clear that at the heart of a successful school is a spirit of teamwork where teachers learn from each other by humbly sharing practices based on evidence and courageously learning from their mistakes. "School choice" only encourages competition, which is simply the opposite of what is badly needed to support every learner in our classrooms. It is not competition, but collaboration that is imperative. The problems basic education face cannot be solved by one teacher in isolation, a predicament any contest dictates. The challenges we face cannot be solved by schools competing against each other for there is simply so much to learn from each other. 

Above copied from Solution Tree

Diane Kerr and coauthors have compiled a rich tapestry of experiences from classrooms all over the country. This book is full of stories of educators in schools that have risen from being labeled as "Improvement Required" to "National Model". These schools need not change their enrollment. With the same number of students living in poverty, the same number of English language learners, these schools have gone from low-performing to high-performing. And it comes with a sense of happiness and productivity as teachers work together as teams ensuring that every single student succeeds. This is the spirit of collaboration. Schools are not factories that can choose the quality of their starting material. That is why there is a necessary shift in culture. Values and habits must change. This is what true equity in education requires. The stories told in this book show us the way as most evidence does.

The book ends with the story of a second grader who has a learning disability and is reading at a kindergarten level. In less than a year, the student reaches reading on grade level. This is not achieved because of "school choice" or because of one teacher. From page 208 of What About Us?:

This did not all happen because of one heroic individual teacher (that would have been impossible), and it didn't solely happen because of the grade-level team's support. It happened because the entire school said, "Not on our watch. We will work to ensure our student will not be unsuccessful because of what we fail to do." It was the moral imperative and culture of collective responsibility that drove this focus on ensuring this student acquired the essential academic, social, and behavior skills he needs to be successful in the subsequent years and throughout his life. This school staff created a sum that was greater than its parts."

The goal from the very beginning is very clear and there is only one goal, every student must succeed. There is also one path and culture for this goal and that is "collective responsibility". 

I would like to thank personally Brian Butler, who sent me a copy of this wonderful book. Thank you for sharing great stories. We need them especially at these times.