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.
The true outcomes of education are long-term and a little lofty. You can imagine them as life, liberty and the capacity to pursue happiness. (For more depth, see What is Education For, Really?) These outcomes matter a lot, 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 healthcare, parent involvement, nutrition, exercise and the like.
For many of these, schools can have some influence, but they certainly do not fully control them. For example, public schools cannot control what kind of needs students show up with. They serve everyone.
Schools cannot control what kinds of needs students show up with.
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 funding for schools? Because funding buys inputs, like teachers' time and training, or technology 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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