Good Progress

It's no secret most of our world defines success in terms of measurable outcomes. Sales, production, consumption, inputs, outputs-each measure tells a story, but each measure also fails to tell the whole story. Each measure informs, but oftentimes doesn't account for unquantifiable variables. These missing metrics may be the key elements that, if cultivated properly, could lead to truly good progress.

Nationally we have adopted a system of education that mirrors the marketplace. Our collective narrative is that certain inputs will lead to certain outputs which can be measured by repeated testing. Input, retain, regurgitate is the current pathway to success. The level at which a student is able to parrot information is the level at which we define their progress. The impact of this system is leading to a deterioration of creativity, an increase in stress, and collapse of true education. These processes fail to recognize the humanity of each child as complex and unique. They have enslaved teachers to act as puppeteers-degrading their own passions, perspective, and leadership. As we lean into crafting a new vision of what elementary education can be, we recognize we must redefine success in order to set students and teachers free! 

So how then do we define and pursue "Good Progress"? This was one of the questions I asked every teacher and school administrator I engaged on my tour of schools. 

A guide at Acton Academy said, "We want our students to know how to use freedom wisely." They are empowering students to teach courses, to map out their own learning, to engage in generative instruction that seeds their continual growth. When asked about success as a student, one Acton student said, "They don't give me the answers so I get to figure it out on my own. They have given me guide rails to help me make progress. I know to go to the 3 B's first. Use my brain, ask a buddy, check a book. Our guides are available too, but I'm also able to move forward on my own."

The Long-view team shared their commitment to helping students have a deep understanding of ideas rather than pursuing siloed skills. They want students to understand connection and relationship within and across domains so they have the freedom to move around concepts in a variety of ways. The depth learners at Long-view are exposed to in different subject areas truly empowers them to grow.

At Compass Charter success was about engagement and relationship. They believe success can be measured by kids having a desire to be here and the presences of warm relational connections. They want each child to develop a sense of self and have ownership of their own learning 

Converting passion into purpose is what success looks like at Portfolio School. Teachers are meeting kids in places of success with additional challenges and in places of failure with tools for reflection to help them figure things out.

Brooklyn Waldorf is pursuing a balanced strength for the whole child. Waldorf schools want to help learners exercise every part of their brain. They do this by building strength in areas of weakness and offering space for mentoring and teaching in areas of mastery. 

A Kindergarten teacher at LREI said success in her class looks like kids becoming problem solvers. She wants them to develop resilience, independence, compassion and empathy. These cannot be developed apart from a learning environment filled with rich experiences, continual challenge, and freedom to discover on their own.

As a school community, LREI seeks to be a place where kids have the opportunity to ask questions to make sense of their world. Their director explained that success is not singular. It is finding out what kids want for their lives and empowering them to see education as a doorway to pursue their passions.

Success is more of an ongoing conversation at Corlears. It involves lots of communication about where we are and where we are going. We don't have the same destination in mind for every student and success is not something reflected just in a point-in-time evaluation. Instead it is a movement of constant growth

In an era of education where it seems testing is King, each school I went to was defining success in other ways. Are kids excited about learning? How have they grown today, this week, this year? Do they have meaningful relationships? Are they able to learn from their failures? Do they have a clearer picture of the world around them and their place in it? 

At Odyssey Young Leaders Academy, we believe removing the limitations of grading and testing opens children up to a world of growth, discovery, development and mastery testing simply cannot contain. It empowers our community to provide a richer definition of "good progress" for each member. We will to weave together these new definitions of success to invite students into even deeper places of scholarly work connected to their core and our community.