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Always Strive to Be a Better You

Why 100 Matters


An elementary school in Washington State recently set itself a ridiculously haughty goal of having 100 percent of its students represented by a parent during the semi-annual parent-teacher conferences. That school, receiving Title I funding for its high-poverty clientele and carting a rather respectable history of 90 percent attendance at such meetings, embraced the challenge of meeting with an adult in every single child’s life… and refused to settle for anything less.

One of the most passionately debated topics of 21st Century education surrounds the primary tenet of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act: All students, and that means 100 percent of enrolled students, will test at or above proficiency levels by the 2013-2014 school year.

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That is, most all of us will agree, quite a hill to climb.

Advocates of accountability insist that high standards for all students are necessary to promote academic growth and spur achievement to levels heretofore unseen.

Proponents of the whole child claim such goals are ill-conceived and detract from our true mission in school: to prepare each student, as an individual, to meet his or her own potential.

And both are right, arent they?

Inevitably, into the debate struts the number 100. There it is, masquerading as both the lofty goal and the pie-in-the-sky rhetoric, with a percent sign following it.

Just the thought of 100 percent of our students reaching proficiency tingles our spines and quirks our eyebrows.

In many corners of many backyard barbeques and hotel lobbies, educators and non-educators alike have debated the merits of this NCLB goal. Described as "achievable, "ridiculous, "impossible, and "haughty, 100 percent is nonetheless the standard against which we compare everything education-related.

Forget for a moment the sanctions, the funding issues, and the achievement gap. Though those are all worth mentioning, they are merely asides in this theater. Lets consider that number

100

As we all know, around the year 100, lions became extinct in Europe. (What would we do without Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia?) Though that was a devastating blow to those wishing to naturally trim the Alpine zebra herds, it does not explain why the Roman numeral C refers to 100. Does it have something to do with its resemblance to the moon?

100 is also

  • the number of years in a century.
  • the sum of the first nine prime numbers. (Dont believe me? Just add up 2+3+5+7+11+13+17+19+23.)
  • the Periodic Table address for fermium (atomic number 100).
  • the emergency number to dial on your cell phone if you find yourself at the mercy of a mugger in Israel.
  • the number Celsius to crank up to if you want to boil water.
  • commonly referred to as the perfect square of a perfect ten.

    PERFECT

    Pardon all that rambling Its sole purpose was to get me to the concept of perfect. One hundred percent of anything is a perfect whole. The entirety of something. Completeness. The absence of absence, if you will. Perfection.

    An elementary school in Washington State recently set itself a ridiculously haughty goal of having 100 percent of its students represented by a parent during the semi-annual parent-teacher conferences. That school, receiving Title I funding for its high-poverty clientele and carting a rather respectable history of 90 percent attendance at such meetings, embraced the challenge of meeting with an adult in every single childs life.

    And it was a struggle from the start.

    In the end, about 80 percent obliged quite willingly. Phone calls and notes home coerced the next 10 percent to cross the threshold. Then it was do-or-die time for the 10 percent who were left. The teaching staff had already called, already sent home notes, already e-mailed, already offered rewards to students, and already pulled out their thinning hair. This final 10 percent would be the steepest part of the hill to climb. Would it be worth the effort?

    WHO ARE THE FINAL 10 PERCENT?

    We all know the answer to that question. Quite plainly, the final 10 percent are the ones we need to meet most. They are the parents of the children with the most pressing needs, the most dire circumstances, the highest risk for future failure, the greatest prevalence of behavior issues, the most common occurrence of _____________ (you fill in the blank, you know who those children are!). And they need us the most.


    It was, by all accounts, a beautiful scene. 100 percent, including that all-important final 10 percent

    So, having exhausted all the resources they had used in the past, the teaching staff upped the ante. Teachers began to follow students home. They waited until 6:00 when the parents came to pick their kids up from the after-school program. They called during the evening. They left hundreds of messages. They even visited parents at work. They did, in short, whatever it takes. They were relentless in their pursuit of the goal -- not for the goals sake, but for the kids sake. They were going to meet with that final 10 percent of parents.

    When the mother of child #600 (out of 600) arrived at the school office to drop off the students meds before heading back to the local shelter, the schools assistant principal sprinted to cover the teachers classroom so she could meet face-to-face with the mother.

    It was, by all accounts, a beautiful scene. 100 percent, including that all-important final 10 percent. You might call it the perfect 10 percent.

    The results of all that commotion to meet with every childs parents are twofold:

    First, it allowed the teaching staff to get a handle on every single child on campus by opening up authentic communication between the school and home, by sharing valuable information, and by outlining current progress and concerns.

    Second, it taught that staff a very important lesson: any goal, no matter how lofty and unattainable it may seem, is achievable if they are willing to work together, to think creatively about solutions, and to act with a relentless tenacity previously witnessed only in pre-100 European lions.

    Think about it. Its perfect.

    Always strive to be a better you,
    Pete!

    Article by Pete Hall
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2007 Education World

    02/05/2007



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