Goldberg On Cherry Condition

David Goldberg, the founder and CEO of Core Skills Mastery (and past BW client) responds to yesterday’s post:

I wanted quickly to respond to your Eduwonk post this morning. I think that you’re right on, but missing some important ideas and context. We’re still in the education game with CSM, but increasingly turning to the business world, as well – this year, we’ll have direct contact with dozens of Chief Learning Officers and Executive Directors of Talent Development at large corporations, and the story is a bit more complex both from the employer and the education side.

· Every employer, bar none, is interested in high performance, whatever the task. At entry-level, low-skilled positions this might mean that you show up on time, but the larger importance of high performance is true at every position, in every business function (production, logistics, HR, finance, sales, marketing, etc.). What companies really, truly care about is solid math and literacy, problem-solving, ability to learn independently, and performance traits like persistence, attention-to-detail, self-efficacy. This is what you want when you hire at Bellwether, and this is what the farmer wants.

· What the rest of the world hears is that employers are interested in job-specific skills. This is at best half-right. Companies don’t have a single voice, and the HR functions of hiring tend to be narrowly focused on checklists of skills. However, job-specific skills by their very nature are the minimum requirements for adequate performance – everyone in the companies must have these. But when you go to the learning/talent development departments and to the operational people, the issue is really about high performance.

· The problem with our education system isn’t that it doesn’t teach high performance, it’s that it unintentionally, but actively, instills low performance. That is, while on the job, A-level performance is the only acceptable performance, education is the only place in America where mediocre, C-level, passing performance is just fine with everyone. Students learn that no one else cares, and that they shouldn’t either. In many cases, this is the only lesson that sticks (from what we see in test scores, it’s not math or literacy).

· The issue in some ways is function of classrooms, where the whole class moves as one and some students will always be left behind. Educational technology has the potential for addressing this, but the definition of competency in competency-based education is really 50-70% on a multiple-choice test (GED, Common Core, Accuplacer, and most of the conventional learning systems). This is a terrible lost opportunity for changing the system.

· The more insidious problem, I think, is that in the policy sphere, whenever there is a tension between “more” and “better”, “more” almost always wins. As students are asked to do more math, and at earlier ages, it shouldn’t be a surprise that more students are left with poor performance. Yes, we can say that we want more students at the “proficient” and “advanced” levels, but how many states have recently instituted algebra 2 requirements (which are flatly ridiculous, even in a STEM-based economy)? We should first fix the “better” at whatever level a student is at, before we stretch for “more”.

The cherry farmer (manufacturer, retail store, Bellwether) wants high performance, not algebra. The schools teach algebra and low performance. Do the math…

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