Which school do you want to support?
Many things could be done, or at least tried, to make education work better. It's impossible to do them all, so every school leader must make choices.
In choosing to make any investment of time, effort, or money, it is important to distinguish between inputs and outcomes. Inputs are the conditions you grapple with or the investments you make to change them. Outcomes are the results.
The true outcomes of education are lofty and long-term. You can imagine them as life, liberty and the capacity to pursue happiness. (For more consideration of these outcomes, see What is Education For, Really?) These grand outcomes are matter a lot, and it's important to keep them in mind. But on a day to day basis it's hard to aim for them. On most days, school systems have to focus on smaller stuff -- interim outcomes like grades, scores, attendance, peace, and morale.
In ed-policy lingo, factors that can be directly changed with focus or investment are known as "inputs."
In ed-policy lingo, factors that can be directly changed with focus or investment are known as "inputs." Examples of inputs include access to health care, parent involvement, nutrition, exercise and the like.
For many of these, schools can have some influence but they certainly do not fully control them.
However, there are some inputs over which local schools and districts have a great deal of control, such as:
It's useful to keep the idea of inputs and outcomes separate, in part, because it helps to thwart magical thinking. For example: why are we concerned about skimpy funding for schools? Because funding buys inputs, like teachers' time and training, or tablets for classrooms, or crossing guards. Why do we care about school spirit? Because it might drive inputs like more time in class. Do these inputs produce important outcomes? It depends!
Many of the "inputs" of education cost money, a challenge discussed at greater length in the “Resources” chapter of Ed100.
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