Can we find answers?

Bird Droppings March 24, 2022
Can we find answers?

Several years ago, I would have said there were answers to almost any question that could be asked. Today sitting here, I wonder granted; first, you have to ask what is the question or questions, but now I have a different attitude that allows for an unanswerable question. I was researching yesterday and reading about W. Edward Deming’s and his solutions, which were relatively simple to most quality issues in life. Deming believed in quality first, and as I ponder education, is it too pie in the sky to try and do such a good job that there are no questions any need to check (assess) at the end of the line. Is it too high and mighty to offer that there is no need to inspect or challenge and or no need to test if the quality is built-in?

When other than the day of a holiday, would I be sitting pondering, eating a ham and cheese omelet, and sipping a real strong black tea with agave nectar over ice and waiting on a sunrise to pose such a question? A bit disappointed with no sunrise with the cloud cover. But Deming’s ideas keep coming back to me. I will diversify my thoughts as I wander to a discussion yesterday with a regular education teacher, a good friend who has concerns about education.

I was working on an idea on using academic achievement to address issues with Learning Disabled students by using a rubric that is a way to provide quality versus simply quantity to an evaluation. This sort of led into as I headed toward school a discussion. As I sat driving around yesterday after discussing with another teacher the subject of autism and dealing with where do these kids go after school is over? On a more critical note, what is even available? I had a brainstorm, which was partly due to the thoughts that came out in our discussion. Over and over again, parents were concerned about how their child’s life was being directed by people who did not know their child. Often changes in staffing will occur, and parents do not even know. For nearly fifteen years, I have recommended teachers of some students track students more effectively, perhaps including group meetings of staff up and down the line who will have or have had that student. More often than not, we deal with a cold folder of someone else’s opinion. Knowing a kid can make the difference so many times between success and failure. This concept also ties into the current discussion of educational issues being decided by non-educational people with our state and federal legislators.

Several years back, at a conference, I met a caregiver who provides daily living assistance for several Asperger’s syndromes and autistic young men in a group home. One of the young men who lived in this facility was also involved in the discussion. (This fellow lives essentially on his own and has Asperger’s syndrome, a high function form of autism but is legally blind. Sadly for years, the visual impairment concealed the pervasive disorder). Often, the caregiver who works for an organization involving disabled adults who need some assistance is referred to know the person well. He and this young man have a language many would not understand part of this young man’s disorder idiosyncrasies that the caregiver has learned to understand.
So often in schools and workplaces, we want all the ducks in a row, and someone a bit different doesn’t fit in, so push them aside. Charter schools, the excellent reform answer in and of its nature, limit what students can come to that particular school with its charter. I could not help but think of IEPs and such and even further to Deming’s ideas. My day yesterday was pondering achievement, a rubric, and Deming. It has been a while since I sat as a student in class, but I can’t count the time education professors have said we need to think outside the box. Yesterday as we talked to two teachers walking the hallways of knowledge, we discussed opening the box. So often, we limit, as Deming pointed out when we have “the inspection,” we only really get what we ask for. This has been researched in the industry numerous times; if you want to find twenty percent defective parts, you will get twenty percent defective parts. My mind jumped to those students for whom seventy percent is passing, and we get seventy percent from many.

I have watched meetings where the group set IEP goals of eighty percent compliance on behavior in such areas as not swearing at authority figures. I would have liked that back in several of my high school and college classes. That translates into two out of ten times I could swear, and it is ok since I am achieving my goals. This is precisely what Deming is saying; you get what you ask for. So how do we imply quality and success without setting limits or parameters? How do we measure achievement without providing a box even within the confines of a rubric? How do we measure friendship without having parameters to measure from? Hopefully, the last one perhaps is one of the easiest to escape from. We measure friendship, hopefully not in some testing situation and not in some box-ready format, but we measure friendship in love and emotion which often is not a measurable and quantitative form; it is in simply knowing. Why do we have a difficult time in education? Far too often, teachers do not know students. A school identity number and seat on a floor chart, and we are off to educate.

“Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.” Dr. W. Edward Deming

This can apply in many different fields, including education, but it will take some effort to teach teachers how to know students. It will take a different mindset for teachers to look for quality rather than quantity. It will take using innovative ideas to evaluate learning rather than standardized tests that so often are not even valid in the context of what they are testing. How valid is a test that students can score about the same in the beginning as in the end? I have not proved this point, but I would wager on most High School Graduation tests; if given to ninth graders, they would come close to passing in effect if they could pass the test in eleventh grade. I have similar thoughts on End of Course Tests. Sadly the difficulty is developing within students and workers another of Deming’s thoughts.

“Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service…” Dr. W. Edward Deming

Listening to parents over the years always makes me think. We seriously need to address perhaps differently children and even each other so often we come at life in general rather than looking for specifics in an individual. We approach each aspect from past experiences that are still important and do not let that experience of the moment have its way for that person. We lose individuality in mass production, even in our view of things. I am constantly reminded that first impressions are based on experience and not on anything to do with this person far too often. We need to see and hear who this is before passing judgment, and we need, as those parents, repeatedly offered to get to know the natural person, not just the symptomatology. I sit here trying to figure out how to create an open-ended rubric, some method of scoring that has no parameters and no limits, and that is an exciting venture for the day ahead and week ahead of planting, gardening, mowing, and reading. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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