One Size Fits No One

December 30, 2013

As I look back over the past year at Fast Horse, I’ve had one honor worth noting. I’ve been deeply involved in Generation Next, an organization that envisions a Twin Cities where children of all socio-economic backgrounds receive an equal education, one that prepares each of them for success in this century.

Today we fall far short of this vision. Our educational disparities between white children and children of color stand among the worst in the nation. Generation Next, with its mantra of evidence-based decision making, relies on data to identify the practices that are making a dent in this thorny problem.

National FocusI recently attended a workshop hosted by Generation Next. Jeff Edmondson of StriveTogether presided over the session.  Strive is the national organization on whose framework Generation Next is based. In the workshop, Edmondson took aim at an outmoded paradigm that holds up national research as the gold standard for local decisions. 

I remember the original hubbub over No Child Left Behind and its one-size-fits-all approach. I call it the McDonaldization of our schools. NCLB mandated the use of nationalized, high-stakes tests to measure kids’ achievement. The same tests are used from Portland, Maine to Chula Vista, Calif.

Now, the U.S. Department of Education claims NCLB did much to hurt the students it originally intended to help – children with disabilities, low-income students, children of color and English learners.

Local Focus

Edmondson challenged us to turn the national-is-best research paradigm on its head. Over the past eight years, Strive focused on local data to identify which practices matter in helping kids — all kids — succeed in school. In doing this, they’ve proven that what works in Maine differs from what works elsewhere. 

I’m excited to be working with Generation Next. In 2014, we’ll dig into local data. It is here we’ll find which practices can help us reverse the unfortunate educational disparities that exist in the Twin Cities.