A More Meaningful Measure of School Success

SAT, MAP, AYP, RIT, SIP, NEAP, WTF, BS, and the list goes on and on. There is certainly no shortage of education assessment tools that help us measure success. However, there’s one that is missing; one that I believe could be the most meaningful measure of school success.

Before reading on, give yourself a treat and watch all 20 minutes and 43 seconds of Benjamin Zander’s TED Talk, the Transformative Power of Classical Music. It’s the inspiration for this post and a TED Talk I have rewatched again and again. Like seriously, go now and watch. I’ll wait…

Benjamin Zander, author of the Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life and renowned classical conductor, delivers so many jewels of wisdom in his 20 minute TED Talk; enough to inspire a long list of blog posts. However, there is one beautiful nugget of genius that for me sticks out most:

Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 9.15.13 AMIs that not the most awesome definition of success you’ve ever heard? As educators, just replace wealth and fame and power (because we all know those ships have long sailed away) with standardized tests, state-mandated assessments, and mid-term exams, and focus on the shining eyes of the students around you. Imagine how making that our benchmark of school achievement would affect how we interacted with students, how we designed our lessons, and how we organized our schools.

And it’s measurable! Now I am not suggesting admin submit end-of-the-year reports to the local state BOE with our shining eyes rate (SER, because it can’t be considered an education initiative without an acronym). However, I am suggesting that we as teachers take serious measure of Zander’s question, “who am I being, that my children’s eyes are not shining?” Create a spreadsheet, grab a clipboard, find one of those handheld tally counters bouncers at clubs use to record how many people have come to get their groove on, and track how many shining eyes you see during a day. How many shining eyes do you get as students enter your class? How many shining eyes do you count as students work on unit assignments and projects? How many shining eyes are looking up at you as you deliver a math lecture or model a narrative writing technique? And track it. Measure growth. Analyze trends. And then reflect, adjust, try new things, and see how that affects how many shining eyes you see.

Now of course on any given day there are many factors that affect your students’ shining eyes, just as there are many factors that affect your students learning. Personal problems, all-night study sessions, feeling sick,  hormones; these are just a few of the factors that are outside of our control. Therefore it would be unreasonable, and probably unwanted, to expect 100% of our students to have shining eyes 100% of the time. But nonetheless, it’s a noble goal and one worth striving for.

With all this said, I am not arguing abandoning our learning goals and classroom assessments. Of course we still need to help our students develop the skills, habits of mind, and content knowledge to be capable and creative contributors. It’s just that all too often these standard practices overshadow curiosity and the love of learning, and dampen our students shining eyes.

Shining eyes are my new go-to measure and one of the essential ways I’ll determine my effectiveness. For me, it’s a more meaningful measure of my success, both inside and outside of school.

What do you think? Are shining eyes a fair and meaningful way to measure our school’s success? Are you willing to measure your students’ shining eyes for a week? Let me know in the comments below!

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