Two things jumped out at me from today’s local headline, LISD sees good, bad marks in state rankings.

First: the only school in the entire district to earn an “exemplary” rating is our school, Murfee Elementary. You do not need to read about TAKS scores to know and understand why Murfee is such a great school, however. Just go in and walk around, talk to the students, visit with the teachers. Murfee is a Core Knowledge School. That means students are engaged in studies that have great depth, rather than simply breadth, as is the case in many schools. Long term projects, involved dramatic plays for the student body and community to see, tons of entries in the annual science fair… the list goes on and on.

But do you know what really makes Murfee a top school? It is not the tests the students take. It is not the textbooks they have. It is not the curriculum the district provides. IT IS THE TEACHERS. And it is their principal. This group of committed, passionate educators are the reason students at Murfee are receiving a top quality education. My hat is off to each and every one of them!

Secondly, in the article today it is amazing to read the following about Estacado High School: “Frazier said the standards have become a “Catch-22 situation” for Estacado High, where fully one-third of the campus’s students are in special education.” One-third of the students. Wow.

It is such a shame to see how much FEAR there is in the educational environment today, for both teachers as well as students. This really came to light this past month, as my group in my last graduate class did a research project on test anxiety.

We know that the performance of people is worse when they are fearful. We know that morale and attitudes are poor when people are fearful. Yet what does our public policy environment encourage in our public schools today? In many cases, it is an atmosphere of FEAR. Fear of failure, fear of earning a bad rating, fear of not advancing to the next grade.

During the depression, President Roosevelt talked to the American public frequently about fear. Because Americans as a whole knew a great deal about fear then, just as our teachers and students know fear intimately on a daily basis in their classrooms. This is what FDR said about fear in his famous first inaugural address:

“This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So first of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear. . .is fear itself. . . nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Today, we are facing an educational depression almost as great and formidable as the economic depression of the 1930s. And our prescription for healthy living is the same also: We need leaders who will speak the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Leaders who will help us overcome and transcend the senseless fear that we have wrapped our children and their teachers in, and bring us forward together into the twenty-first century.

Look for more on this topic in my upcoming inaugural podcast. 🙂

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