Sunday, December 11, 2016

The End of Average Thinking

I recently read a book recommended to me from someone on my Twitter PLN #Edchat.  The book is The End of Average by, Todd Rose, I finished it about a month ago, but I keep coming back to it, as it really makes me think about education today.

His main point is that average is not really average, so why do we base everything on an average?  He proves that mathematically basing things on the average is truly not the way to do this.  We find the average and rank things and people.

Another point he made was education was modeled after the Industrial Age, for example, think of the bell system, it was developed to get people ready for working in factories, those factory workers listened to the bell to signal lunch, breaks, and the end of the work day.  Children were then trained in school to listen for the bell for those same reasons.  The author asks, why do we still place students in a grade level by age?  Why do many districts discourage students to be retained or accelerated a grade?  What if every student started school with the gift of time? Instead of all students learning the same concept and then everyone moving on at the same time, what if we gave students as much time as they needed to truly understand the concept?  We know babies don't all learn to crawl, walk, or talk at the same time, why do we expect students to all learn the same information at the same time?  If a student already knows the concept they move on.  Why do we teach concepts to students who already know it?  We wonder why we have so many students with "learning disabilities" and others with "behavioral issues".  Have we ever thought that maybe they don't have a learning disability, instead they just need time to learn it?  Or are students with behavioral problems really students who are bored or so frustrated that they haven't grasped a concept that they are acting out?

I recently learned of a school in Santa Ana, California, Advanced Learning Academy (ALA) that does just this.  In fact, here is their vision statement, "The Advanced Learning Academy aims to provide SAUSD students with personalized student-centered instruction that accelerates learning.  Students and teachers have the opportunity to be innovators and collaborators.  The school is focused around unique instructional methods that support competency-based learning coupled with project-based learning.  Both students and teachers are given the space and support to "fail early, fail, fast, and fail forward", as we learn and innovate new paths in learning.  Students will learn daily iterate continuously and engage in skills that support 21st Century learning." I don't know what kind of results they are getting but this is cutting edge education, this is a new way to think about educating our children.

My own daughter struggled in school, I was concerned she was not reading "at grade level", by 3rd grade she was struggling in reading and writing, upon having her tested we found out she had a very high IQ, but may have had some processing issues.  I beat myself up about enrolling her in school at 4 years old, as she was a late November birthday.  If she could have worked at her own pace, and judged on her individual growth, not on an average, I think she would have enjoyed reading in school.  Although she struggled in school, she graduated college and is doing great, that one poor grade did not define her.

The book End of Average, by Todd Rose made me think.  What if as educators we did what we ask of students all of the time?  Become divergent thinkers and think about how to "rethink" the educational system.   We keep talking about teaching students 21st century skills, but we are still modeling schools after the industrial age.  Something's got to change...

I recently came across a video that talks a lot about the same things as the book, if you don't have time to read the book, watch the video, it will make you think:  Changing Education Paradigms I think it will make you think, too.