Mediocrity is a buzzword in education reform circles. This dreaded yet vague term is applied to everything from curriculum to coaching. If, like many, you are still unclear on how to achieve true mediocrity, please consider these suggestions:
- Never compare your school or district to the best in the nation. Be sure to always strive for (and publish) how well the school is doing in relation to nearby schools or districts, or among those in your athletic conference. Be ok being the best of the worst.
- Hire toothless administration who are far more interested in having happy parents and teachers than intelligent students. Also, make sure the school leaders are afraid to call parents on bad parenting, and are skittish when it is time to get a mediocre teacher out of the classroom.
- Always go with the low bid. Hire the youngest, cheapest staff, ignore experience and achievement, and always balance the budget on the teaching corps. When building or adding technology, make sure never to get what is relevant to the 21st century, but what is readily available and easy to obtain for a small price.
- Make sure your school leaders are financial wizards, not educators. That way, the only thing the school or district can be proud of is how nice the fund balance looks. Make sure all educational decisions are financially, not educationally, sound. Learn the phrase “good enough for what our budget will allow.”
- Keep class sizes at the norm. After all, despite the wealth of research to the contrary, it is perfectly rational to believe that 33 students in a high school science lab is the same as 20. Justify it by comparing class sizes with neighboring districts (See #1 above). If class sizes get small, cut staff to alleviate the problem (see #4 above).
- Ignore the diversity of the student body. Continue to assume every student has a supportive family, current technology, and a full belly. Assume they assimilate.
- Make sure that athletics is a cornerstone of the institution, not learning. Hire excellent coaches who can almost teach. Fund stadiums instead of computer labs. Have pepfests to celebrate games, not achievements. Make sure all athletes assume that if they work harder in athletics than in the classroom, that they will have large advantages over their peers someday. Oh, and make sure to make non-athletes feel inferior. That’s important.
- Finally, always weigh the elephant, but care little about feeding it. Set aside entire weeks for testing, and respond by teaching to the test. Ignore data that overwhelmingly suggests this approach is damaging to the learning process. Be sure no one in your organization fights for the learner. Never get involved with the politics that create schools. And never, ever, buck the system.