Fishing In The Small School Ponds

Fishing in the small pond
Just the other day I attended a presentation by a company that promises the delivery of an educational product that will just blow the socks off of student test scores. The product they are selling is a packaged version with a pretty ribbon on top, of information, data, testing research available freely on the web. The problem is time; time that administrators and staff members believe they are saving the cave dwellers from expending by purchasing this “classroom in a box” idea. This company is just one of many fishing in the small district education office pond for the big catch. The idea is a simple one. They can provide a site license to the district so all their teachers can drink the same Kool-Aid and achieve greatness. Like thousands of other educational ideas before, as many are successful as not. The data they provide as documentation, as proof, is data from the state/district/schools themselves showing their “need” for this product. They have no solid data showing their success rate because this is a moving and fluid target.
The “cookie-cutter” classrooms these companies use as a model does not mirror the 60% and above free and reduced lunch population schools, or the rural schools without internet access, the urban school with locked restroom doors and metal detectors at their entrance doors.
I am not against these companies and their ideas, not by a long shot. I fear however, undereducated school boards, enamored by the presentation of academic salvation without the proof of success, purchase these products and then blame the educators for their failure. If you want to step back and see what needs to be done in the classroom, the basic unit of life in education, you’ve got to ask the teachers in those classrooms. Teachers need to be involved in these choices if, as I’ve said before, you are looking for a professional faculty then you have to treat them professionally.
The companies fishing for sales, again the bottom line here is these companies for profit or not, are not in schools pitching their product because they love you or the children. They are not there because of that — they are there because you represent money to them. Income. A vacation. A promotion. A new car/boat/plane. With that in mind, closer examination of the product is in order. A few suggestions to any board reviewing these type of ideas would be:
1.) Involve teachers in the process
2.) Ask for a demonstration time period. A good example is offers a potential client a free month use to determine if their product fits their needs.
3.) Seek out other school districts who are using or have used products from this company and ask for a review.
4.) As the ACT asks students — compare and contrast companies.

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