A trip to the doctor’s office with one of our children reminded me of the importance of identifying the client.  The nurse took all the information from me.  When the doctor walked in they interacted only with my daughter.  At the end of the discussion, I consulted.  The doctor had absolute clarity about treating the patient, not the parent.  

Do you know who you serve?  Schools often have this challenge, believing they serve the parents.  The parents might be the benefactors of the students, but schools exist to support and nurture those enrolled in their classes.  Take care of the students first and you build an educational platform.

Do you still know who is your client?

May Day


May Day, a time to march in support of worker’s rights across the globe.  It makes me wonder about the impact of a unified effort.  Standardized testing has been a topic of educational blogs I follow.  The SAT was long theorized to be replaced by a far more sophisticated assessment tool yet it is still the necessary currency for those wishing to submit an application to a competitive enrollment collegiate institution.  What if, in the spirit of May Day the Class of 2013 opted out?  If enough students did not participate in the SAT, college admission officers would be forced to make acceptance decisions based on other attributes.  The students would have the power to present themselves more fully.  Numerical rankings that were conveniently performed based on SAT scores would no longer be available.  The data set that is critical to the college admission formula would be incomplete.  How would a college respond?  Would a student be able to submit a portfolio that better represented not only how much knowledge they had accumulated but more importantly, how they were using this knowledge?  Could a student direct a college to their progress on Khan Academy, showing not only mastery of a topic but dedication to self-paced learning?  Would linking to a blog or an extended project portfolio be worthy?  How about highlighting images on Pinterest where the student’s artwork was organized and further linked to exhibitions?  Could you submit your e-book, video that went viral, audio file about the nonprofit that you founded?  How about the sport that you had mastered, the year living abroad, work with a master musician, or the years served as an advocate for youth in local government?  Could you present your passion and explain how college was going to enhance your journey to serve others?

A college admissions officer explained that applicants at his college were ranked on a 1-10 scale.  A rating of ‘1’ was representative of a student who was a National Merit finalist, near perfect SATs, received teacher recommendations that rated the student as exceptional.  Sixty percent of these students were denied entry to the college where the admission director was employed.  The SAT did not make a difference.  These individuals who excelled as test takers were simply lumped into the highest tier which gave them the greatest probability of acceptance for any of the groups on the one to ten scale.  Yet their chances were less than fifty percent.  The decision on admission was made based on the student’s other skills and achievements.  In may ways the SAT gained them entry to a waiting room with no guarantee of an appointment.  Here’s hoping the waiting room has unlocked wifi and comfortable seats.

I wonder which incoming class of High School Juniors or Seniors will be the first to take back the college admission process and ask for a more complete representation of their unique skills and passions?  When will standardized tests with bubble sheets be regarded as a throw back, similar to tossing the kids in the back of a station wagon with no seat belts, no airbags, while the driver smoked, the right front wheel wobbled out of alignment, the gas tank was half-empty, and everyone headed towards Disneyland at 70 mph?

Here’s to you Class of 2013…

Flog or Golf?

Forbes had a fun article titled, Go for It Golfing, outlining ways to make golf more entertaining for the masses.  For context, consider that golf lost 4 million participants over the last five years and a million last year alone.  Between the green fees, equipment, and rules the game is focused on serving the limited few who can perform an awkward athletic skill repeatedly over a couple hours.  Just 0.7% of all golfers with a USGA handicap are ‘scratch’ (zero), meaning they should shoot par over 18 holes.  That means 99% of us need to supplement our score card to even come close to shooting par.  Basically we are playing a sport that scores based on failure and one big failure during a round can be catastrophic (no chance to get an Advance to Go card).  The authors outline six innovations that would dramatically change the way golf is scored and played, many of which I intend to implement if I take out my clubs that have not seen a fairway for a year or so.

All this makes me think about other areas that could use a re-write of the rules to make it more enjoyable.  What if education capitalized on gaming and had levels of achievement awards instead of grades, and SAT’s were replaced by the opportunities that show case a student’s talents (critical thinking list of interview questions for job applicants, none of these would appear on the SATs)?  What if a parent had to sign their name to the report that they had helped their child write/create?  Acknowledge that the project was a team effort and revel in the parent-child bonding experience, teamwork, and on-going education for both child and parent.  What if students who presented a different point-of-view in class were asked to teach the next class to fully articulate their perspective – with the teacher sitting at the student’s desk taking part in the learning?  What if a teacher asked the parent to bring their unique talent to the classroom to benefit the class (or even mentor a student, team, division)?  What if teachers did not feel pressure to know all the ideas but were treasured for being the facilitators and curators of great thinking?  What if we focused on original authorship, a student’s own perspective on a topic that one could not find online in a series of YouTube videos, Google searches, and Wikipedia articles?  What if we really got to know the students instead of the students getting to know all the details of what has already been discovered and catalogued?  

Now that is a presentation and a classroom I want to visit!  



You can achieve the same strategic goals of planting a forest during a 15-year strategic plan by taking action in year one or year fourteen.  The only difference is the impact of the goal.  The action taken in year one has fourteen years to mature and become viable.  The seedlings planted in the last year of the plan are juvenile and yet to take root.  Their impact is yet to be discovered.


The importance of sequencing and timing makes me wonder about educational funding.  We can invest heavily in early start and preschool initiatives that provide young children with plenty of support when they are in the most formative phase of development (seedlings) and then shape their educational growth as they reach the high school grade level (pruning phase).  But if we wait to add the greatest support (richest soils and nutrients) until a students has reached the upper grades then we have essentially missed the chance to grow a forest.  Timing and prioritization effect some strategies more than other.  I would suggest that leaving our best cultivation efforts and deepest investments for the later stages of the educational timeline results in the ultimate dustbowl.