Will Standardization Give Way To Personalization?

Two former Boston School Principals took issue last week with a Harvard Professor who was promoting personalization:

As longtime school leaders, we’re delighted that Paul Reville has discovered the potential of personalization to improve our schools and student learning (“America’s schools need a new paradigm: personalization,” Opinion, Sept. 13). It should also be noted that for decades he was one of the chief architects and enforcers of sameness and standardization, and that he offers these new ideas with little trace of irony.

These two principals, Larry Myatt and Linda Nathan point to problems of standardization that continue to block any meaningful reform towards personalization. They ask the very important question of where are the “hows” of how this gets done, how we can get this reformed, or how can we show any improvement when the current standardization is so institutionalized in our school systems?

How Can We Improve?

Let me offer a few ideas on how we might improve. The current system has become mired in administrative details. For example, the New York City school bus system is larger than the New York City bus system—school administration is complicated. To fix this, a revamped bus administrative system run by professionals from the city, for example, would partner with a much more professional teaching and learning set of professionals, to completely revitalize the bus system. Allowing the teaching and learning professionals to regain the lead authority is the correction we need to make and would lead to better use of bus systems, perhaps using the city’s bus system more than running a completely different school bus system.

Change Accountability

From the teaching and learning point of view, accountability also needs to change from a one score standardized test, to a whole school, whole student, and whole teacher point of view. Performance assessments with reports of percentage increase statistics will do just fine. Finally, addressing every child’s learning needs, in a personal way, and not a standardized way, could be realized if teachers were empowered to diagnose their needs, and support their learning progress, rather than assuming they all fit into the same type of student learning profile. Individual Learning Plans should be developed for every child, shared with every teacher, and progress measured for each individual child.

Develop Growth Mindset for All

Developing a growth mindset for students as well as teachers, would result in different accountability based on achievement of different skill sets for every student. Now that would be really different in how we get improvement done!

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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