Each year, the masonic lodges of Kenai, Seward and Sterling hold an awards ceremony to recognize a student from each of our schools. At the beginning of the event a flag presentation walks the audience through the history of our nation’s flag. Friday was my fourth time in the past six years to see this presentation, it is unchanged. While watching this history lesson I thought about how ritual and fixed practice are a part of our education system. Schools and teachers have routines that are much the same as they were twenty or even forty years ago. Most of these are important and provide a necessary consistency to the schooling experience. But with an increasing set of expectations, the challenge for schools is to decide which of these to stop as a way to make room for doing new things.
On the last day of this year’s legislative session there was a desperate push to secure monies so that districts could establish a 1:1 computer-to-student ratio for some or all its students. I feel that the response to this by some of the legislators was appropriate. In sum, they said, “You just received a lot of new money and if you want to do a 1:1 initiative then stop doing some of what you are doing and do that instead.” It is clear that our schools have little or no capacity to add anything more to their plates. Our challenge is not to figure out how to add 1:1 computing (there are well established practices to guide this), but to decide what to stop doing so that we can make this change. Continuous improvement requires a regular assessment of practice. If such an assessment cannot show effectiveness, then it is time to let it go. The key is deciding, like the history of our flag, what is foundational and what has run its course.