University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

No Excuses!

In The View from the OEP on June 9, 2011 at 8:25 am

Excuses, excuses …. What if? … It happens in every walk of life.  It’s hard not to make excuses when obstacles get in our way.

Our favorite baseball team would be great, except …

  • they keep battling one injury after another, and ….
  • they can’t seem to get a fair shake from the umpires, and … 
  • teams like the Yankees just have too much money!

Or, my sales division would be doing a great job this year, except …

  • this economy is making all of our customers skittish, and 
  • new government regulations are slowing us down, and … 
  • upper management keeps cutting our budgets.

And, yes, this even happens in schools.  In fact, our own school district is really great, and we would be doing great, except …

  • the state policymakers keep tying our hands with silly regulations, and 
  • those tests are wasting our time and killing our creativity, and 
  • the kids that come to our schools are just not ready or able to learn!   

As these made-up examples illustrate, the “victim” mindset is by no means only found in schools.  We can find it everywhere and probably all engage in “excuse-making” to some degree in our own lives.  This is why it has been so refreshing over the past few weeks to engage in the Spotlights on Success project for the OEP.

In this project, we were able to observe and speak with educators and school leaders at five schools across Arkansas with wonderful records of performance, despite facing obstacles that have slowed down schools for years.  Very few schools have figured out how to effectively educate students who are just learning English, or racially diverse student groups, or students burdened with substantial economic disadvantages.

But these schools are figuring it out! And they’re not making excuses.  They didn’t spend their time talking about the problems that the kids brought with them to school, or the numerous requirements levied on them by state policymakers, or any other external challenges.  Instead, they talked about teaching better lessons, about working together and working harder, and mostly about improving the lives of their students by delivering a quality education and expecting the best from the kids.

We were lucky to get to spend a few hours in these schools.  Here’s hoping more schools follow their lead.  If you’d like to read more, visit our site.  Or, better yet, visit the 2011 Summer Leadership Institute, sponsored by the University of Central Arkansas, THIS FRIDAY from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM at the Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center at UCA.

We’d love to see you there!

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