Superintendent’s Corner: Rebuilding with Purpose

Happy kids at elementary school

Some of you may know this about me, but for those who don’t, let me share this little bit of myself; I’m a motor-head. I love working on cars. My dad was an auto shop teacher, and my brothers and I grew up hanging out in the shop with him. For some reason, the world’s challenges disappear when I focus on my hands and turn a wrench or try to solve a puzzle of someone else’s design.

I’ve owned a 1960s Ford Mustang since I was 16 (I think 6 different ones over the years). Let me geek out for a moment when I share that my current ’67 Pony has a 289 with JBL headers, a Holly 4-barrel carb, Edelbrock Manifold, ¾ cam, with Flow-master dual exhaust. It sounds like Lightning McQueen…and the truth is, my brother’s Subaru Outback will outperform it in virtually every measure.

I’m sharing this because it is an example of how piling expensive and disconnected improvements on an old system produces a lot of noise and activity but usually no real results. The same is true for how the educational system has explored improvements. We layer on bits and pieces that make sense individually but, in practice, make more noise than actual improvement. This is also true for many of our attempts to address racial inequities and eliminate historic social injustice. If this were not true, we would no longer see Native youth dropping out of high school at twice the rate as white students. Latino children enter kindergarten-ready 22% behind their white peers. Black students are excluded (for disciplinary reasons) 2.5 times more often than white students.

To make change that produces results, we must dismantle the current system and rebuild it with tightly inter-connected sub-systems that talk to each other, are assessed regularly for their impact, and changed in real-time as we learn how to make them more effective. If we really want to see us reach our goals of eliminating racial inequity, we must change. Not by just adding on what sounds and feels good, but intentionally deconstructing the system that is producing what we see. If we are unable to see with new eyes and if we are unwilling to let go of what we have always done, we will not grow. As Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I think it is time to stop the insanity.