Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Not Equity or Achievement Gap - Let's Close the Inspiration Gap

Why don't kids succeed at school? Well, a primary reason is because they are disengaged from what they are learning, and they don't like the system, content, structure, goals, etc. Too often they are simply not motivated by or interested in what the education system tells them they "need to know." And, this is particularly problematic lately in a system that is focused on a singular definition of "readiness for college and career," which seems primarily focused on a basic level of competency in algebra II. This "common" approach for all kids is the outcome of a one-size-fits-all system grounded in the belief that if we simply produce more kids ready for bachelor degrees that we will solve the problems of socioeconomic inequity.

A more equitable system that would probably be more effective at meeting kids needs and producing engaged and skilled students who are prepared for the jobs they want and the lives they desire would instead focus on engaging and motivating kids to develop skills in areas that interest them. And, some innovative educators are addressing that issue of "inspiration," notably Andrew Mangino.

Four years ago, Mangino founded The Future Project with the aim of transforming students and schools by looking beyond the familiar measures of success. Instead of focusing only on school performance, graduation rates, college matriculation and job placement, Mangino wanted to get to what he saw as the root of the problem. Students don't have enough motivation, he says, and they lack belief in their own futures.
It’s not that the typical metrics aren’t important, Mangino says. But he strongly believes there's a lot more to success than grades and test scores. It's a conviction he developed while walking the hallways of Woodrow Wilson High School, speaking face-to-face with a young man whose potential couldn’t be fully rendered by numbers alone. The Future Project places mentors in schools -- usually people in their 20s and 30s -- to get students talking and thinking about how to achieve their dreams, big and small, short-term and long-term. The program's mentors refer to themselves as "Dream Directors," a title meant to signal that The Future Project’s ambitions begin in the school building but don't end there.
Moving away from a system of Carnegie units based on basic skills and preparation for "college degrees," and instead focusing on engaging kids in learning and personal growth, is the kind of education reform that can really make a difference.

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