Monday, August 10, 2009


Today is the first day of school in Georgia for most school systems following a traditional 180 day calendar. This is the 18th time I've sent a student off to school in the dog days of August, making me about as qualified as a parent can be to render this assessment: Fail!

Too early school starts used to occur during the last week in August, a pattern I remember well since it meant my daughter often began school on her birthday. Melting cupcakes only added to what was hot, sticky, and wrong about that. But she's a sample of one, and I guess someone has to start school on their birthday no matter which day is selected.

In Georgia, earlier school year starts have mirrored the introduction of high-stakes student testing as a primary measure of academic quality. When competitive, heavily benchmarked testing occurs in April, school systems that pre-load instructional time are likely to deliver superior results relative to those on the same journey that got a later start. These "wins" are like getting excited when the train with a 9:05 departure beats the scheduled 10:15 run.

Here are my top three "teachable moments" arising from outcomes achieved through gaming:

  • Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Discuss!
  • Billy Crystal is famous for saying, "It is better to look good than to feel good." Explain how quality markers inform authenticity and shape performance.
  • What can people interested in reforming healthcare learn from quality measures and improvement strategies selected by other industries? Compare and contrast measures and outcomes between "commercial aviation" and "public education."

Your time begins now.

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