The picture below can be snapped in public schools across the Commonwealth of PA. I’m guessing the teachers, administration, and students earned it given the requirements of the State standards … on some level I wonder how they feel about it when they walk by? What I am discouraged about as a parent and educator is that this and the other ones like it bearing several other years hangs proudly in the school’s entryway … D’Arcy noted on my Flickr posting that it might as well be one of the signs you see in factories that proudly tell us that there have been no injuries in the last X days.

The first things I thought when I saw it were (a) it looks like the PA Department of Transportation made it, (b) how disappointing it was that they would hang it, and (c) this is the representation of our children’s contribution to the school.

Is it possible, given all the creative and intellectual contributions our children make, the Commonwealth of PA couldn’t have chosen something other than “Adequate” to describe the progress. Why have I seemed angry? This is a big part of the reason.

ad•e•quate, satisfactory or acceptable in quality or quantity.

I filed this under WTF at Flickr

I filed this under WTF at Flickr?

16 thoughts on “Adequate

  1. I’m afraid this is typical “enterprise” thinking in what should be an innovation zone. Why don’t governments, administrators, etc. understand that a school is as precious and vital a thing as a National Forest, a newborn baby, a family reunion?

    We’ve made schools into info-transactions, and forgotten they’re about relationship and community. Shame!

  2. Your comparison of this to industrial signage is perfect. How could anyone feel otherwise? It would be a good grayscale backdrop for the Pink Floyd tune. It’s ripe for the appropriate civil disobedience. I’m embarrassed to have apparently given up on my daughter at such a young age and subjected her to this environment.
    I know it was a question of ease at the time. Shameful, and I’m trying to deal with it.
    That confession on the books, I have to add that most of my outrage with the accepted system comes from my not seeing adequate progress. I see squandered intellect and creativity, and not just in the kids. I’m following your posts, continuing my own journey, but what am I missing here?

  3. Cole, you are lucky to have the luxury of being disheartened by this sign. As a father with kids in the Philadelphia public school system, let me assure you that many, many schools in PA and beyond are NOT making adequate progress, by any name or measure. That is a crisis plain and simple. Is “adequate” uninspiring? Yes. Is it sufficient? Of course not. Is it necessary and sorely lacking in many schools? You betcha.

    And to Gardner above: Those who see a caring, student-centered, community-oriented school and the consistent accomplishment of objective standards as somehow mutually exclusive or even negatively correlated are either blinkered by ideology, uncreative, unambitious or some combination of the three. I want for my kids not only a caring, authentic education but also one that enables them to meet objective standards. Treating these ends as somehow incompatible is a disservice to everyone.

  4. @ Brian Finnegan
    I would agree and argue that the more student-centered, creative, caring, and authentic we get, the more the standards would be elevated — and maybe from the bottom up, not the top down.

    I think we all know in our hearts this would lead to better learning and smarter kids in the end… but we have to have enough patience and faith to let it occur. And that “we” includes parents, teachers, students, lawmakers, administrators, etc.

    But the point about Philly schools is a very good one… and on some level, I think we have to figure out how to focus effort on the failing schools without creating yet more invalid assessment hoops for everyone to jump through. It seems that somewhere in this, Obama’s call for national service and volunteerism has to be a part of it all.

  5. And I should add, why can’t they just leave off the “adequate?” If it just said “Yearly Progress, Two Consecutive Years,” I would feel so much better about it. The adequate is just so disheartening and condescending. It just has such a government cheese feeling to it… and government cheese sucks.

  6. @david stong I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “missing.” If by that you are looking for a call to arms, here it is. I will be working to start some informal opportunities for anyone to contribute. I think we owe it to ourselves as people who believe in the ideals of education. I know the next time I talk with folks from PDE the image above will be my first (and perhaps last) slide with the title, “Really?”

    We should be protecting and promoting the notion of schools as places of higher value like @Gardner mentions. I am beginning to believe we have to do it while addressing the needs of local schools — why can’t my neighborhood school be pushed to go beyond “adequate” at the same time the local school in Philly that @ Brian Finnegan talks about is pushed by something different? Does that mean I care less about those outside of my neighborhood? No, but it means that it is going to require people get involved locally to impact the concept of the neighborhood school … it is a call for more volunteerism as @Kristin mentions.

    I just see incongruences between standards, achievement, and assessment … I’m just not sure how one at once prepares for a test and pushes towards higher order thinking and metacognition with strict standards in place. Isn’t there a way to get beyond this.

  7. Wow.

    I was all set to write a comment about how being labeled “adequate” may have achieved the objective, spurring you, individually and collectively, on to reach the next level.

    Then I started researching the program. I found the Penn DoE Newsroom article 2008 KEYSTONE ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS RECOGNIZE SCHOOLS
    Apparently that sign is meant to show a school achieving excellence.

    So yup. I am on board. If this is how we applaud excellence, we have some serious, serious problems.

  8. Very interesting related to this conversation… just got a message from the “Save the Govies” Facebook group (to save PGSEs) and this was in the note…
    “For approximately $2.7 million dollars, maybe even less, all eight programs could continue to run. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial ‘Scandal for Schools: Why cut great programs for the best students?’ published on 2/7/08 notes, “America needs super-achievers to scale the heights as much as it needs underachievers to meet firm standards. Nothing is more important to a nation lagging in science and math and seeking to stay internationally competitive than to encourage a culture of high achievement among its youth.” It seems that the state is trying to send a firm message to its youth: Adequacy is our goal, and we cannot support those who achieve beyond the standards. What a bleak message in a bleak time.”

  9. @Kristin The fact the Governor’s Schools are gone makes me sick to my stomach. My time at IST was marked by the summers … that was the time we welcomed 75 of the best and brightest students the state of PA had to offer. Each year was better than the one before and each class was so amazing it was scary. What a load of shit that the state would choose that to cut. My proudest moments while in IST were overseeing the PGSIT.

    And I was trying to walk away from the rage.

  10. I’m just crushed by the end of the Governor’s Schools. I directed PGSIT at Drexel for a stretch. (I knew your name sounded familiar Cole for something other than your blogs!) I was never prouder or more certain of the importance of anything I’ve been a part of before or since.
    One of the things I think makes advocating for gifted & talented programs so difficult is how easy it is to dismiss them out of hand as helping those least needing help. If only we’d focus on education as the realization of human potential, and that the realization of human potential is as critical for the ulta-talented as anyone else, PGSE and its ilk would endure and thrive and as a society we’d all be far better off. $2.7 mill is chump change. My only consolation is the distant hope PGSE will re-emerge in more prosperous times.

  11. @ Brian Finnegan Brian, running PGSIT at PSU was an amazing experience. Every year I taught a modified IST 110 course to all the scholars — a ton of work, but so rewarding. You are right, 2.7 is chump change … money I am betting would be really well spent promoting the brightest kids this state has to offer. I’d love to see the program re-emerge … I just hope it does.

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  14. You know by now that “adequate” is a key term handed down from the NCLB rules at the DOEd. It partakes of the theory that public schooling needs to bring the lowest quartile of students to an average position on tests by increments known as yearly progress as measured by state statute.

    What everyone has been concerned over and devoutly denied by school districts is that it has been necessary to shift funding away from special programs for average and above average performers to pay for remediaiton for the lower performers. How much would your institution save if it didn’t have a raft of adjuncts remediating students in math and English? Our high school has nearly twenty specialists doing remediation. Most in English.

    If you look into the rhetoric of “destroy the system” you will find statements that say flat out that if you give a school money, it will not be spent in an appropriate fashion, thus schools begging for more money should be seen as extremely suspect.

    I leave that to you since you work in an academic environment.

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