While I was able to attend the recent Fairfax Education Summit sponsored by the
Fairfax County School Board for only a short time, I was impressed by the theme
of the program – “Moving to the Next Level: Customizing Public Education.”
In recent years, there has been a major push for standards education to have all
students succeed in passing the same standardized test. As the panel at the Summit discussed it, we have been following the industrial model of education for too long with an expectation that all the widgets represented by the students come out of the school factory performing exactly alike.
This standards approach that is aimed at students in the middle leave challenged students struggling and gifted students frustrated. Just as industry has evolved into mass customization, schools must customize their programs for individual students.
As part of my career with Fairfax County Public Schools, I was charged with
implementing Program of Studies (POS), a standards approach I had designed.
In requiring subject area disciplines to develop objectives for their courses, a testing program was designed to measure student progress. All students regardless of the school attended in Fairfax County could be assured of getting the same instruction. What I hoped could become an individualized program for students that could be pursued in an ungraded format became instead a lock-step, test-driven system after I left the position.
Superintendent Jack Davis, under whom I had developed the system, went on to be the State Superintendent of Instruction and introduced at the state level a version of POS that he called Standards of Learning (SOL). That program also became test-driven with such an emphasis on scores on standardized tests that much of the creativity of teaching was lost.
Programs like SOL and No Child Left Behind are in great need of reform. Critical to bringing about efforts such as mass customization of learning and individual educational plans for all students is the outcome of the School Board elections on Nov. 8.
While there seems to be a lot of small issues being pushed by many candidates, I believe we need people on the school board who have a broad vision of the reform that is needed in instruction. We need people who can make our already great school system better. I hope that you will join me on Nov. 8 in voting for Pat Hynes for the Hunter Mill School Board seat and for candidates Ted Velkoff, Ilryong Moon, and Ryan McElveen for the three at-large seats. The outcome of the school board election is critically important!