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  • Writer's pictureElliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF 9.9.2022

“Are you with me now?” AJ Ryder

“I’m going to school, a.k.a. jail.” That’s what I heard from one of my 11-year-old nieces on Thursday as she went off to her first day of school. We didn’t have any time to talk about it since she was already late and rushing to get out the door but I can tell you one thing, she doesn’t feel that way about the things that interest her outside of school.

On Tuesday, Dennis and I will have an hour to talk about the history of BPL at our staff retreat. After 27 years, there’s way too much history of people, places and events to talk about in an hour. For me, it will be fun to take an event and hear what we have to say about it from our two perspectives. What questions will staff have about our renditions? As Napoleon said, “History is a set of lies that are agreed upon.” We’ll see how all this shakes out.

College Unbound – institutional storytelling – “Marriage is a great institution but I’m not ready for an institution. – Mae West

Do institutions tell stories or do people? This Sunday at the CU board meeting on the agenda is institutional storytelling. I wasn’t sure what it was or if, I would find anything so, I looked it up and sure enough there is a lot written about institutional storytelling and not without differing opinions of what it is. I’m looking forward to hearing how this plays out at College Unbound.

I lost my keys!

Once again, it could be me but isn’t loss about something or someone you had but lost. Isn’t learning loss something you learned but lost? That we have plenty of. There’s a ton we learn in and outside of school that got lost or forgotten, mostly from lack of use or utility. But, how can you lose something you never had in the first place? How do you get something you learned back if, you never learned it?

Intervention or prevention?

For policymakers, learning loss is the loss of time in a system that tries to keep students on track to graduate by a certain age, covering a certain amount of content and seeing how many get across the finish line given those parameters. Of course, all of this is a construct made up by people who themselves do well on tests and for some reason like to keep score with the caveat that all this is done for the greater good to everyone’s economic benefit. COVID set the education system back on its heels. So, what are the system mavens to do? Intervene and put everyone in catch-up mode pouring more money into going faster in less time which is what they always wanted in the first place. Their primary methods of intervention here are 1:1 and small group tutoring, and online practice to get better scores on tests.

Pre-COVID New York State was already spending $25,000 per student. At that time the rates of proficiency on standardized tests were far from acceptable. Why didn’t we institute tutoring on such a massive scale if the evidence about tutoring was already there? Why are they spending all of this additional money now on afterschool, summer school and extended day teaching the same content taught during the school day? And, why are they ignoring that if they looked more closely at the data, they would find that relationships between adults and children matter and that the teaching method matters based on how a student learns. Sheesh! Tutoring is more about relationships than they believe and not just about content and the method of delivery.

What can we do?

“Post” COVID, is an opportune time to come back and be informed by evidence around: learning through interest and motivation and meaning; learning through practice in real-world learning environments; and learning through relationships both in and outside of school i.e. advisory and place-based learning experiences. It is a time to be informed by health and lifestyle medicine evidence that impacts learning across the board for the general society but especially, black, brown and communities most marginalized where the health disparities are far greater due to institutional racism and food industry marketing. Case in point, an article yesterday in pointed out that the construction of urban highways that segregated communities contributed to the higher incidence of asthma and other health issues impacting learning.

Pre-COVID I wrote an article:

What Are We Losing by Keeping Students on Track? Can students get credit for being off-track from the standard measures? Are schools adapting to the students or is it the other way around? Since this article, our new forms and new measures has added even more of a practical dimension to the possibilities of what can happen if we create more opportunities around prevention and not costly interventions.

And just one more thing….

Presently, there are 1600 districts in the US that have gone to a 4-day week. They do this despite their standardized test scores going down and the cost of losing a day only reducing the budget by only 1%. This policy is certainly running counter to the larger trend around learning loss.

Be Well!

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