Saturday, February 7, 2015

Response to: Why do we seem to focus on kids that come from environments of which our school will never be able to impact?

"If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could be better changed in ourselves." - Carl Jung
I had a conversation with a stakeholder recently and it caused me to reflect on what we are doing as a district.  The question centered around whether schools can actually reach all kids. The questions was, "Mike, why do we seem to focus on kids that come from environments of which our school will never be able to impact?" My response was, I wouldn't be in this profession if I didn't truly believe that school can overcome a child's home environment.  It is complex and doing what we have always done will not reach all kids. What works for one kid will not work for another.  I went on to explain that we will not be able to reach all kids under a traditional system. This allowed me to explain our initiatives and why we have greatly altered our own school structures to make it possible to reach all kids.  Of course changing the structure doesn't automatically change the culture, culture is an area of focus as well.   

I've discussed John Hattie's research in the past and it clearly shows that schools can overcome the environment if they focus on the right things.  I provided a list of the "right things" below and where they rank in comparison to the impacts of a negative home environment.  

Rank - Influence - Scale Score (Hattie, 2009, p. 299)

#3 - Formative Assessments - .90 on the scale 
#7 - Comprehensive Interventions - .77
#8 - Teacher Clarity - . 75
#10 - Feedback - .73
#11 - Teacher to Student Relationships - .72
#31 - Home Environment - .57
#32 - Socioeconomic Status - .57
#38 - Pre-Term Birth Weight - .54
#51 - Student Motivation - .48
#88 - Homework - .29

In my heart of hearts I believe that we can overcome the environment of which our toughest kids come from, but it won't be easy.  It involves rethinking many of the things that are deeply rooted in the institution that we call school.  We will continue to rethink and adjust our structures and develop a culture of learning for all.  


  1. I used turn that question around to, "What if we don't put any focus on those students that we think don't need any help to be impacted?" This usually brought those kinds of thoughts to a quick change. There is no perfect environment. Reciiting research meant nothing to 90% of the naysayers. What ever happened to the Great Melting Pot ideal? The superintendency is a most unique beast. :) Wayne T.

  2. Good points Wayne. As you are aware something that works with one child won't have the same results on another child. We have to develop a system of interventions to reach all kids. I think that has to begin with changing established mindsets.