It is difficult to ask teachers and administrators to take action to balance a focus on standardized test scores with a focus on student ownership in an environment that judges teachers and schools so harshly based on that single measure. It is difficult when careers hang in the balance. It is difficult when educators are told to “cover” the curriculum whether or not there is time for students to really come to understand the material. It is difficult when school success is legislated to be measured by standardized tests. It is difficult when so many fear that test scores and student ownership are an either-or proposition. All of which means that it takes fierce courage for a teacher, a principal, or a superintendent to commit to student-centered instructional approaches for the children in their care.
And yet, there are examples across the country of such teachers, such principals, such superintendents. They have taken a leap of faith that they will see results by following an approach that requires deep self-reflection and a shift in mindset to a belief that children are competent and can be trusted. That they will see results by following instructional strategies that put much more of the work onto the students themselves. These educators are rewarded not only with academic results, but with increased job satisfaction, fewer student disciplinary problems, and higher attendance and graduation rates. And yet, they are few and far between.
The recipe is simple. The implementation is very hard. The outcomes are beyond measure.