“To find the core of a school, don’t look at its rulebook or even its mission statement,” Ted and Nancy Sizer advise in their forthcoming book, The Students Are Watching. “Look at the way the people in it spend their time, how they relate to each other, how they tangle with ideas. Look for the contradictions between words and practice, with the fewer the better. Try to estimate the frequency and the honesty of its deliberations.”A school’s quest for greater consistency between its words and its actions should start, they propose, with questions such as these:
- Is more expected of both students and teachers than is possible to do well?
- Do conditions in the school allow each student to be known well?
- How does this school pace itself? Is there time during the school day to work, time to reflect, and time to rest?
- Are the expectations for students and teachers clear?
- Are the incentives and opportunities for clearly demonstrated work clear and pervasive within a school?
- In its presentation and recommendation of students for college admission and job placement, does the school absolutely insist on accuracy as well as advocacy?