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Elliot's Blog 2/16/2018


“Statistics cannot substitute for the human being in front of you; statistics embody averages, not individuals.” Groopman


I had a great call with the editor of Craftsmen’s Quarterly. Todd Oppenheimer. On it, he asked me if I believed the statistics coming out of the US Dept of Education around what the new jobs will be. I replied that as practitioners many times we see something very different when analyzing statistics released by USDOE. But before I responded directly to his questions I added, you get data depending on how you ask the question and what the system is set up to do next. For example, earlier in the week Chris Jackson and I looked at data around where CTE concentrators are going after they complete a high school pathway. The good news is that around 80% enrolled in post-secondary.


Turns out that across the board a very low percentage end up entering post-secondary in the fields that they concentrated in their CTE programs. This can be attributed to all sorts of things. For one, the choices that they made around their pathways were really not their own and when they had options they changed. Another is that they liked the pathway they chose in high school but were not connected in any way to people or programs in postsecondary or work that solidified their choices. And, to add just one more of many more possibilities, according to the people we talk with in CTE programs that do have high percentages of students enrolling in what they concentrated in while in high school, we heard that these students had real choice around their interests and real relationships in and outside of school. One analysis could be that we have loads of programs where there are large disconnects between student interests and the CTE pathways they are in and that we also have some programs where students are very well connected. In the end, we just don’t know. Ask if the feds interpret the same data they put out this way and my bet is that you will get an entirely different response.


When I went around Yolo and Sacramento Counties for two days with Charlie Plant, we heard lots of stories from teachers, students and administrators that align with our analysis around connecting students to their choices with mentors at internships. It goes without saying that we had a great time. Charlie has done incredible work this year doing BPL without being a BPL school by focusing on our real-world side. Through the Harbor Freight Fellows work, we are readying for our next phase of work around the practices of this program connected to school leadership.  The seeds are planted. Counties and districts want the Fellows program, the leadership program and more. It was great to meet the people in front of us. Again, Groopman has a point. Statistics cannot substitute for that.


How do you get to the top of the heap through a different type of merit?


On Tuesday, I attended a BioCom meeting - with HR heads of about a half dozen companies getting their feedback on developing a system that recognizes and credits badging in biotech for students. Basically, the HR people listed 21st century skills, assumed that a level of college meant that you were competent academically and sorted potential employees that way. Then, I asked about training for the jobs they will be employed to do. Every one of these places had their own training programs. Lots of hoops, lots of sorting and all done the basis of how you did in school. There was no thought about real-world experience and who knows you know out there. There’s a blind spot here and opening here.


Next week I’m off to work with our team on the first Affinity cohort of the Walton work. Affinities are about spontaneous connections and bonds. Jeff has prepared loads of opportunities for us to do so. I’m excited to be part of the work around the new measures that Eva is leading. This work out of this group will forge the way for us to change the conversation in serious and appropriate ways around measures that has been a long time coming.


From San Diego to New Orleans a perspective on learning and mastery


“Man, he can do things that no one else can do. You can hear it but you can’t do it.” Ronnie Stewart

Ronnie is a friend of mine San Diego and among many things an accomplished jazz drummer. When we get together on weekends basically, I go into listening mode.  “You understand drumming differently when you listen to someone who really knows what they are doing. Drumming has its own language. People have their own styles and are talked about with respect and reverence in a profession where ego is everything.”


About a month ago, Sunny saw Brian Richburg, the young man who did the score for Navigating Our Way. Brian is at Berkeley College of Music and the night she saw him, he was the drummer for Nicholas Payton, one of the top trumpet players in the world. Sunny asked Brian what the difference is between learning music in New Orleans and learning music at school. He told her at school you learn from your peers but in New Orleans you learn from your elders. This is the way to mastery in music.


“Jazz is an art of living traditions and accumulated wisdom, so it’s only natural that its elders remain central to the conversation. Extolling their ongoing relevance doesn’t take anything away from younger musicians. Instead, it emphasizes continuity, one of the most important values in what we call the jazz tradition. There is still no way to become a serious jazz artist without some formative contact across generations: It’s how the language best survives, even in an age of encyclopedic access.” - Nate Chine


Elliot Washor,Ed.D.

Co-founder Big Picture Learning