If you know what your goals are in education, you know what outcomes to measure, observes Dan Willingham. Sounds obvious, right? But if it’s so obvious, what exactly are our goals for schooling? Writing at the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog, Willingham notes that while measurement is essential to progress, there’s “remarkably little discussion of big-picture goals.” Why do students go to school? He offers three possible reasons: 1) So that they can better carry out their civic duties; 2) To prepare for the workplace, and 3) To maximize the potential of each student, whatever his or her talents and interests might be.
“That parents might hold very different goals for schooling seems inevitable,” Willingham concludes. “Rather than having schools try to be all things to all people, this diversity of goals strikes me as a good (but not definitive) argument for school choice.”
I worked for a principal who liked to say “you must inspect what you expect.” At present, we apparently expect kids to read on grade level and graduate more or less on time. That doesn’t directly address any of the big picture goals Willingham describes. Nor is it a very satisfying definition of “educated.”