Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Starfish, data and change

This one is a little sappy but so applicable to education. I was speaking with Dr. Nixon in Tennessee and he has all these starfish in his office. So I asked him if he likes the beach. He said no and that he had them in his office to remind him of The Star Thrower Story which can be found at: http://www.starthrower.com/star_thrower_story_script.htm

The gist of the story is that an older gentleman is walking down the beach when he sees a younger man jumping around the surf. As he approaches, he realizes the guy is throwing starfish back into the ocean that have been beached. He asks why is the young man doing this when he can’t possibly make a difference and save all the starfish on the beach. The young man reaches down, picks up a beached starfish, throws it back into the surf and says: “I made a difference for that one”.

Interesting – love the story but felt let down by the moral of the story on the website. I immediately felt like the starfish are symbolic of anyone who struggles. The young man was anyone in education trying to make a change and the older guy was the establishment that felt that change will not really make a difference. Eventually he figures out that it is worth it and that making a difference starts small.

It was motivating for anyone who constantly battles the forces of status quo.

The other amazing thing I learned on my trip is how many changes Tennessee is making in education based on data. Keep an eye on them. They are changing curriculum, adding math and science requirements, have strengthened their standards and are changing the sequence of science courses all based on data from student performance.

Tennessee got all this data and started using it to improve education and no teachers lost their jobs in the use of that data. Interesting…….

So, after my trip south, I believe even more in starfish, data and change.

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