I made the mistake of reading the July/August Metro article on the ‘Best Schools in Auckland’ while in transit. You know, something to read on the flight home… By the time my flight landed, I was completely exhausted and perplexed. I was left wondering why these sorts of articles are still being written. Isn’t it time we were more challenging in our thinking? Hasn’t this type of article had its day?
It is frustrating that we keep coming back to league tables, printed page after page with some small reference to other factors like values…like creativity…like leadership. To be fair the article did mention the limitations of its research and even quoted principals who think differently. But then, of course… it’s “on to the data.”
The data shows just a small snapshot of what schools are about, yet it must have taken the Metro team a significant amount of time and effort to collate, especially with the addition of teaching tenure, student-teacher ration and student movement. I wonder what their assumptions are about these factors?
The article describes how the data was collected and the authors acknowledged that they don’t have the data to look much deeper than academic performance. This is the low hanging fruit syndrome, where data is used because it is easy to collect rather than dealing with complexity. Or as Future of Work strategist and Forbes contributor Heather McGowan says:
We are myopically focused on proving learning, but that which can be proven is also that which is easy to automate.
As I read the article I was reminded of a story I first heard told by Stephen Covey many years ago. It went something like this:
There was a group of people clearing a path through the jungle. The workers were hacking away at the undergrowth, The managers were making schedules and encouraging the machete wielders to do their task well. Eventually the leader climbs up to the tallest tree, has a good look around then hollers to the crew, “Wrong jungle!” The managers yell back, “Shut up, we’re making progress.”
It is easy to stay in the wrong jungle because it seems familiar. And it seems like progress is being made. But we need to move into a completely different jungle. The world has changed. New pathways need to be forged and new questions asked. It’s time to acknowledge we are collecting data in the wrong jungle.
I think there is a great opportunity to write a much better article for 2020. In the spirit of support, in wanting to make a bigger difference to what’s happening in our schools, I offer the following suggestion:
Why not get a group of smart people together for a conversation about how you might create a more challenging view of success for 2020. Metro is an Auckland-centric magazine so I have suggested the following people to begin the conversation. I haven’t asked them if they are interested by the way, I just would love to sit around a table with them myself!
- Heather McRae, Auckland Diocesan School for Girls. Good read: Women have new challenges this International Women’s Day
- Keri Milne-Ihimaera, The MOKO Foundation General Manager, Keri Mihi Consultancy. Good read: The detail where New Zealand lets its children down
- Justine Munro, 21c Skills Lab Co-founder and Director. Good read: Our kids need more skills than school prize-givings recognise
- Pat Snedden, Chairman Manaiakalani Trust, Auckland District Health Board. Good read: Patrick Snedden honoured for Maori and Pacific digital education
- Kerry Topp, Datacom Associate Director Transformation and Innovation. Good read: Do we need a new model for measuring business success?
- Richard Wells, NZ Educator, Deputy Principal Orewa College and author. Good read: 2 uncomfortable high school truths
I have selected these six as catalysts but I know lots of people who have an opinion and would like to be part of the conversation. Some of them will be reading this article and self identifying! And of course there are people beyond Auckland who also would like to contribute thoughts.
How might we create a new definition of school success and celebrate it in Metro 2020?
I acknowledge it is complex. Maybe it is too hard to compare the rich diversity of school success. Maybe that is the message? Or perhaps that learner success and school success are not the same thing…
Want some further reading? Check out:
- The Voices of Young People
- Reform of Vocational Education
- Employability Index
- Wellbeing indicators
- Emergent education and learning trends for 2019