States with the Best Schools

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints' Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints’ Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

Once again a report has hit the newsstands proclaiming which states have the best education (and which have the worst).  I always vow not to read these articles, but then I succumb to that siren-song that says, “You will be enlightened if you will read this report!”

And, as it turns out,  I’m not enlightened.  The only thing worse for my emotional balance than reading these articles would be to read the “comments” section below the swill.  Which I do.  Noooooo! I don’t know how anyone has enough time to write these comments, but one thing is for certain:  they all must live in the state with the worst education.  (Let that pass.  Perhaps we’ll deal with this topic another day!)

I’m not going to cite my sources in this column.  It doesn’t matter.  The statistical analysis of graduation rates, per pupil expenditures, preschool enrollment, or some other metric reveals useful data (that part is true) that invariably leads to erroneous conclusions on the part of readers.  In the most recent report (that I’m not divulging, remember?) Tennessee does not show up as one of the 10 best or the 10 worst.  How does that make you feel?  If you are percipient, you feel nothing.  Congratulations.  You recognize that these rankings are completely meaningless in the world where you live and move and have your being.

What does have meaning is that students are engaged learners.  It matters that teachers are enthusiastic about the subject.  It matters that a community of learners realizes higher goals than simply “getting good jobs”.  And how does one measure those elements?

In a nearby high school, in a class of AP Psychology, students were debating the merits of competing psychological theories:  behaviorism, humanism, cognitive learning, and so forth.  Keep in mind that this second semester course has only been meeting for a few weeks since Christmas break.  The students knew their stuff!  They already knew what they were talking about!  The spirited debate actually had to be halted when the bell rang.  I can only imagine the pride that teacher must have felt, knowing that her students were engaged with difficult ideas that required higher order thinking skills.  So let’s measure that.  Let’s give a definitions test.  Let’s announce the 10 best and 10 worst AP Psychology classes in the United States.

Or maybe, let’s learn something new and find some passion for learning.

Source: Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints' Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

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