How Old School Mandates May Be Destroying Your School

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Last year, inspired by some online conversations about old school leadership, we published this “Dear Principal. . .” post. Now, we’re rehashing it to see if anything has changed and how we can continue to “hack” learning.

Please take another look at this article, and share your thoughts in our comment section below and on Twitter at hashtag #HackLearning.

old school principal

photo credit: rickpilot_2000 via photopin cc

Dear Principal, is it possible that your old school mandates are inhibiting your teachers’ ability to help your students?

As a veteran classroom teacher, I hurt far too many students, because of administrators with old school mandates that called for assessment practices which made real learning impossible. Of course, like many teachers, fear of repercussion guided my actions.

I responded to weekly grades mandates with meaningless assignments, created only so I could have scores to put into a grade book. Today, many years after I disdained these old school mandates, teachers want to make assessment a conversation, but they, too, are afraid of repercussions from principals.

Just today, a colleague shared this very sad story.

I am required to post two grades per week, something I am fighting, but fighting rather fearfully. There is an intimidation factor here.Anonymous progressive teacher

This and my own story about a D- my 10 year old daughter received on a 10-point quiz, sparked a fascinating conversation on Facebook. Many educators confirmed their own beliefs that old school principal mandates are holding us back and, in effect, hurting the students we’re attempting to help.

“We have to start the conversation (about eliminating old school assessment),” one principal proclaimed in this powerful discussion about education reform.

When presenting at conferences and workshops on student-centered learning and narrative feedback, I meet numerous teachers who paraphrase the anonymous educator quoted above. They want to engage students in a beautiful conversation about learning, disdaining old school measuring tactics, like numbers, percentages and letter grades. They want to give students back their voices, which traditional grades ignore.

You have the power to eliminate the old school grades mandates. You can be the modern leader that education so desperately needs. If you encourage and empower your teachers to stop the impossible efforts to measure learning, you’ll create a culture of self-critical independent learners, which is truly amazing.

So, Dear Principal, please ask yourself if your old school mandates inhibit learning.

And if you decide that they do, will you become the leader your teachers and your students need?

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
  1. Dr. Amy B Hollingsworth
    • Mark Barnes

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