“We moved so that my kids could go to the best school system in the state.”
That’s what the woman sitting next to us poolside said as our kids, fast becoming friends, splashed around in the water at a hotel somewhere in Wyoming during our recent vacation. We’d been talking about schools for about 20 minutes, and I couldn’t stop myself from asking “And how exactly did you find the best school system in the state?” Big state. California. I was curious.
Now before I give away the answer, one which won’t surprise anyone, let me just add that this was a very articulate, well-educated woman whose husband owns a successful software distribution company in Silicon Valley. Even though we’d just met, it was obvious that she was well-read, progressive in her thinking, and concerned about the system. So I winced just a bit when she said it.
“I just looked at all the test scores.”
I mean, I wasn’t surprised, but I guess I was hoping that she might have taken a different path, might have dug around for something a bit less obvious. Might have a different vision for what “best” means.
In a word…nope.
And I wonder if it’s even fair to expect that she might have taken a different route. I mean what was I hoping for?
“Well, first I wanted to make sure that the school had a solid grasp on inquiry-based learning, that the teachers were innovative and curious and letting their students take the lead, and that there was an obvious commitment to building a community of learners. And, of course, that there was a real understanding of how to use technology to prepare my kids for a digital world, to create things of value and to try to make the world a better place.”
Um…yeah. Right. Instead, she pressed the easy button; can I blame her?
But there is a kicker.
“So, how’s it worked out? Do you like the school?” I asked.
“It’s terrible,” she said. “My kids hate it. The teachers are just concerned about the test, and they’re all competitive as all get out. And the reason it gets the highest test scores is that just about every child there has parents who are pushing them and tutoring them and making sure they get what they need to ‘succeed.’”