Monday, July 27, 2009

I sat today writing our school's Targeted Assistance Plan for our new certification as a Title 1 funded school. It was interesting writing this plan certainly. There is no form to fill in, no template to follow, simply a rubric of what the end product must contain. It gave me a glimpse into what students must sometimes feel like when we give them an assignment without adequate direction.

As my colleague and I sat writing, and thinking, and talking, writing, rewriting, reworking the words, until they flowed the way we thought they ought, it struck me over and over how we were more concerned about the document passing muster with the powers who be who will be doling out the monies, than how our program will actually look and function once school starts. Even when we had a clear vision of how we wanted things to progress, we were cautious to use the right buzzwords, word phrases carefully using 'may' instead of 'will' and 'to include strategies such as...' instead of 'using '.

The document became just that, a document, instead of a living progress towards true improvement of student growth and success, it is a piece of paper with the i's all dotted and the t's all crossed. We made sure we used criteria and criterion correctly (we hope...), that we didn't repeat the same phrases repeatedly, and that our pieces and parts were all copacetic, flowing elegantly with and into each other.

It became a "how many more steps do we have left" document instead of a "how can we best meet the needs of these kids, and best use the funds allocated to us" document.

Often in schools it seems this is the way these projects turn out. Writing school improvement plans, and even lesson plans, the initial goal, the intent coming out of the starting gate, was good, with potential. However, somewhere in the red tape and bureaucracy of the document itself, all the true worth was lost.

These documents, unfortunately, not only become a waste of time for those writing them, but then go on to become doorstop material rather than working breathing pieces of learning. No one reads them except the person checking it off to say, "JOB DONE...check!"

Wouldn't it make more sense to have a document in a 3 ring binder, with many marks of highlighters, and red pens, and green pens, and arrows, and smiles, and sticky notes, and addendums, article clippings and work samples...... showing what worked and what didn't, how we are changing the later, and improving upon the first? Shouldn't we be writing in pencil and changing in pen to show we have grown and learned from our mistakes, that we are ready to move on and up in our quest for educational excellence for all?

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