Time for Change

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If you want to make real, serious change in schools stick, don’t underestimate the time it takes to till the soil.

This week, another district in Maine decided to scale back its proficiency-based assessment regime and reinstate letter grades because the new system was “too hard to explain.” And so, understandably, parents were in an uproar. They demanded “a grading system that is accurate and understandable.”

Let’s be clear: proficiency-based assessment programs can be “accurate and understandable,” but only if we make them so. Only if we build the capacity of parents and teachers and students to understand why a change like that is beneficial to kids and how it operates.

But that takes time. Years. Many years, in fact.

The difficulty rests in the narrative that we’re all inured to in education. Success in school means good grades, plain and simple. It’s what shows up in the parent portal. Specifically, it’s numbers and percentages and averages. It’s not skills or portfolios or problem solving.

Right now, we’re in between narratives. That old one is on its way to breaking. But without a clear, more modern, more effective vision to take its place, we’ll cling to the old.

This is the work. Write a new story, then honor the time and effort required to make it take root.

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