Though my own reporting this week locally, I had the opportunity to witness two different ways of tackling the difficult explanation of school-closure reviews and the various steps-- consideration, rationale, decision and outcome.
I won't name the specific boards, but two boards and two separate processes. One review just underway and one where trustees approved a whack of capital spending at the conclusion of a set of reviews.
For the first, I was smacking my forehead, listening to a superintendent try and explain why classes (split classes at that) of 10, or 12, or even seven students wasn't pedagogically as sound as larger groupings of students and staff. Out came the edubabble.
There was no initial attempt to put it in terms people can understand. I don't mean dumbing it down, because that's patronizing. I mean breaking it into plain-English chunks and also speaking to outcomes, not processes. The person in question saved herself later in the evening on a subsequent question when she told the grumbling crowd she didn't mean to suggest that small schools, small classes or rural produced students less capable of success.
She stated, more plainly, that it's clear the two most important parts of student success are the classroom teacher, supported by principal leadership-- regardless of class or school size. People understood that one.
Contrast that with example number two.
Two superintendents speaking to a combined five school construction/addition/reno projects worth $30 million that are a conclusion to two school-closure reviews. Very little edubabble.
Great anecdotes in plain English about how the kids at the school without a gym will no longer have to walk across a muddy field in sub-zero temperatures to use a nearby recreational facility that has a gym. Of how teachers will be able to team-teach in the same grade level and do joint lesson planning , evaluation and class exercises. Of how peer groups in the single-digit range will benefit from a wider circle of kids to socialize with.
Or the other superintendent who spoke of renos to the elementary general arts room to soundproof it so that the entire building doesn't have to experience the joys of intermediate grades picking up instruments for the first time.
Earlier in the review, the best thing done by the board was a tour of a new school with the same approximate proposed student size so parents on the review could see the difference. The other was a one-page sheet outlining the differences in program between a 400 student school and a 180 student school.
Improvements made possible because of school-closure processes, which the director of education tied in a neat little bow at the end-- explaining the reviews are very tough on those who participate but that, guided by a goal of improving the conditions under which children are learning, there's a nice payoff at the end.
I say banish edubabble.