March has come to be associated with “madness,” particularly for NCAA basketball fans. We cheer for our favorite college team during the tournament, but we are enthralled by the unexpected Cinderella story. We love the team – previously overlooked or counted out – that surprises us all with stunning performances. In recent years, Davidson, George Mason, Gonzaga have each worn the Cinderella label. We wonder… where did they come from? Who knew they could play like that? But we shouldn’t be surprised. These Cinderella teams have something in common: well-prepared coaches and otherwise-overlooked stars who found the right environment in which to perform.
Schools face their own version of March Madness in the form of state and district-wide testing. Principals know that their school will be ranked and judged by this performance, fearing that test performance may obscure an otherwise successful season. They will get data needed to assist segments of students, but they worry about inadvertently defining groups by what they do and do not know. Most importantly, principals and teachers know that this kind of data won’t help them discover the students who could be part of their Cinderella story. But there is help on the way.
March 2009 brings a new twist to the madness and possibly a huge opportunity. It’s not NCAA, but ARRA, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. By now you probably know that a mini-tsunami of money is coming to schools by April 1. The challenge of ARRA is to spend it “quickly and wisely,” in the words of the press release, while addressing the four education reform targets of the Obama administration.
I’ve included a little background and links so that you can access the latest guidelines for using these so-called stimulus funds. The bottom line is that the U.S. Department of Education is in the process of sending Title I and IDEA money to your state right now. The U.S. DOE is urging education leaders to “focus these funds on short term investments with the potential for long term benefits.” Principals and school leaders who want to fund professional development to expand the capacity of their staff have a window of opportunity. Let your state department know you want to fund programs that enable teachers to become learning experts and better assess and manage students’ unique learning profiles through descriptive data and targeted research-based strategies. [You can track the distribution of funds on the official government recovery website: www.recovery.gov]
At All Kinds of Minds, understanding HOW students learn is our specialty. Giving educators this knowledge to ensure that students learn is our mission. We stand ready to collaborate with you to understand how to bring the science of learning to the art of teaching. Together, we’ll discover the promise within your most puzzling learners and help all students maintain a thirst and eagerness to learn.
Join the discussion about how students learn and share your own “student Cinderella story” by commenting below.