Educational Directions was started in 1998 to enable a group of Kentucky "distinguished educators" to continue working with schools after their retirement. In the beginning, most of the focus was on providing training for teachers. That focus evolved into training for educational leaders and central office staff and into coaching principals, central office leaders, and teachers.
Depending on what is meant by reforming, we started reforming education in 1633, 1780, 1820 or 1868. I like to start "modern reform" about 1895 because that is the beginning of the first real "national" reform movement. Since that time, we have reformed education about every 12 years.
During this period, educators tended to plan using what is now called the "Education Model." They identified problems, test failures or patterns in disaggregated scores and then "reformed" some element of text books, teacher training, methodologies or schedules. Teacher evaluations focused on the implementation of the reform initiatives and success or failure was determined by the teacher "buy in" and use. In 1994, I worked with a group of educators to evaluate school plans and of 125 plans, 125 followed this pattern. As long as schools are not really accountable for improving the performance of every student, the flaws in this model don't really matter (except to the unsuccessful student).
The latest reform movement which produced NCLB dates to about 1990 and changes the focus from teacher compliance to student performance. "Standards Based Reform" with high levels of accountability for improving student performance requires that educators make plans that will predictably enable each student to use learning at the levels defined by a standard. The education model unfortunately is too accidental to do this and many schools struggled.
Our company, Educational Directions, was set up in 1998 to support schools in the move from the old "input" age of reform to the "output" focus required by the new requirements and our early work with schools caused us to rethink much of what we "knew" about reforming schools. We learned, for example, that changing planning processes or teaching strategies doesn't work if we fail to address the thinking patterns that shape the way schools interpret the plans.
One example of thinking that caused problems involves the presumed cause of student performance. For many schools, failure meant that the student did not learn the material tested and plans reflected this. Our research, however, indicated that student performance rests of 5 "legs" and all effect performance. We knew that if a school's planning, program and curriculum did not assess and develop all 5 legs, we could have students learn and know but still fail to "pass" a test.
As we imbedded research into our work, it became obvious that the one dimensional approach of the "education model" must be abandoned. The new model had to enable educators to probe scores, determine cause, and then design systems, class procedures, and student assistance programs that would eliminate the real cause of poor performance. We have found that research and practice were relevant and became "best practice" only when they address student need. There was no "magic bullet."
Our current planning model is the foundation of our work with schools. It emphasizes:
"Test scores cannot be used as the only indicator of a student's performance. Scores are a data point, not a decision point. We must dig deeper to determine what is wrong with the student work and why it breaks down.
This causal analysis helps us enable each child maximize his or her potential.
We must address the root causes of poor performance. This is accomplished by focusing more on student work and less on test scores without context."