Monday, January 18, 2010

Lollygag Larry and the layup he wasn't allowed to take

I remember hearing about an ice cream corporate suit who thought he could speak at teacher conventions about how his ice cream company was analogous of education. He would explain that he would only pick the best ingredients - he had such excessively high expectations and refused to ever lower the bar, and so his ice cream company made super awesome ice cream. And so the message was that teachers too must simply raise the bar and have ever-more higher expectations of their students.

I think his speaking days were numbered when a teacher finally had the guts to stand up and say that in her public school, she didn't get to throw away the bad ingredients - meaning that she had to (and rightfully so) accept all the students who attended her classroom. The ice cream man didn't have a response.

This little anecdote made me think too about how we come to guage school's success around their sports' teams. There are only so many spots on the team. I can only imagine how many kids' hearts are broken when they find out that they aren't invited to the next tryout.

As far as I know, most public schools don't have tryouts for grade 8 math. That means we don't get to 'trim the fat' or 'seperate the wheat from the chaff'. All of our 'fat' and 'chaff' show up as test scores - that teachers are to be held accountable for.

And yet, the senior basketball team doesn't need to worry about being held accountable for getting lollygag Larry to nail a layup - they just cut him.

The ice cream company doesn't need to worry about being held accountable for getting stale strawberries to make tasty icecream - they just don't buy them.

And yet, public schools that accept all the Larrys and all the strawberries that show up - regardless of their lollygagging or staleness - are held accountable for these challenging ingredients.

Unfortunately, most of the time this accountability ends up being nothing more than a way to punish schools for unconditionally accepting every student that walks through their doors.


  1. An interesting take. Perhaps we should apply the logic of NCLB to all businesses who took tax payer bail out money. Bank of America has to make sure all mortgages are paid on time and no bad loans are made. Citibank must make sure all customers pay on time but need to give a line of credit to anyone who asks.

  2. Excellent! So what will it take to get adequate resouces, and what is the best way of determining them?


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