Recently, I sat listening to a speaker talk about how both Massachusetts and New Hampshire are among the best states in terms of student achievement as measured by the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) test.
The thing is, although it’s difficult to attach any particular meaning to a NAEP score, it’s clear that every state is failing, in terms of the number of students who are at proficiency, regardless of the grade level or subject being tested.
That’s not a recent development. It’s been the case for decades.
As I sat there, it occurred to me that a simple change in terminology might help change the course of our ongoing conversation about public schools, in a way that might help us reverse a half-century of stagnation:
What if we just stopped saying that we are among the best, and started saying that we are among the least worst?
As Confucius said, the first step towards wisdom is to call things by their right names. In this case, that step would consist of paying less attention to what we’re spending, or how we’re collecting it; and instead paying more attention to why kids aren’t learning, and what we might do about that.