Angela Farmer

DR. ANGELA FARMER

Given the disruption generated over COVID-19, schools around the world are struggling to recapture lost time, reteach where needed and validate learning concepts before they can make additional progress. While there is no perfect way to carry out these tasks, they are all essential to ensure that students are ready for the next steps in the learning continuum. It is also a key time to make certain that the vocabulary or tolerance does not lean toward “good enough.”

Whatever the grade a student was in when the pandemic impact was felt, it is critical that educators validate that effective learning transpired. Much like a construction model where the foundation is the most important part of the structure, learning is a collective and cumulative process where the end product will only be as excellent as the craftsmanship that created it.

Students cannot be passed along if they are not ready for the next set of skills. The reality is that it requires a team effort to get the students back on the correct trajectory to be prepared for their next learning journey.

As educational leaders are analyzing data to determine the next course of action, it is essential that their front-line workers, the teachers in the classrooms, are regularly consulted to evaluate what is needed to improve student learning and how to best deliver it to the students.

In the United States the responsibility of education is held by the individual states. Therefore, there is a wide berth of approaches both between states as well as within individual districts. Much of this is based on economic realities where more impoverished states have access to fewer dollars per student to support learning. This becomes especially problematic when one recognizes that states with the fewest resources also present with the largest population densities of students in need of intense support and additional tools to realize academic success.

In analyzing educational effectiveness globally, Singapore presents with a unique outlook on scholastic advancement. In an Insight article by the Holdsworth Center, the author details how Singapore analyzes its academic prowess and continues to push forward. The article, "In Singapore, good doesn't stand in the way of better," details how that small nation’s over-arching focus is on academic advancement.

Given that Singapore can boast an educational system that is among the best in the world, analyzing their approach, especially in times like these, offers an excellent opportunity to improve. One particular noteworthy facet of their system is “they are thoughtful and intentional about change. They spend time making sure it’s the right move and that there is alignment at all levels of the system.”

They also show a significantly different approach toward their consideration for educators. Not only is there a tremendous respect for the profession, there is also a healthy compensation for choosing this career path, which selects only the best and most talented to lead the children, thus leading their nation toward success.

One of their consistent missions is to reinforce that “what the educators are doing is good, but they shouldn’t let good get in the way of better.” This simple focus is one that would be well-suited for each of the states in the United States rebounding from the nearly year-long impacts felt by the pandemic. Now is a perfect time to embrace the brutal facts.

What has worked well and what has not should be honestly examined. Where there are deficits, the opportunity exists to realize an alternative approach with substantial (not just adequate) tools and time to ensure that learning goals and objectives are realized with fidelity.

Much like the Jim Collins book “Good to Great,” it is essential that society enables today’s educators with the time and resources to ensure that the children of the pandemic are given the opportunity to do far more than pass, they must be empowered with the knowledge and educational access to rise above good to become great.

The most powerful nation in the world will not be able to maintain its position without ensuring that its educational foundation is supported with fidelity, one student at a time.

DR. ANGELA FARMER is a lifelong educator, author, and syndicated columnist and serves Mississippi State University as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Honors for the Shackouls Honors College. Readers can contact her at afarmer@honors.msstate.edu.

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