Responding to Comparisons

Responding to Comparisons

I’ve had a few inquiries in the last 10 days about whether and how I would be responding to the unflattering comparison made in the January 14, 2014 issue of The Leader-Post about the students’ performance in Regina Public Schools relative to its two neighbouring school jurisdictions, Regina Roman Catholic School Division and Prairie Valley School Division.

Like most educational leaders who care about their organizations, and about the success of the students they serve, my initial response to such coverage was fairly emotionally intense!

In the time that has elapsed, however, I have had some time to think.

And what I think is this:

The typical range of bureaucratic responses in such circumstances is often some combination of:

  • “Blame” the kids  (by invoking their ethnicity, socioeconomic status or  life circumstances)
  • “Blame” the teachers (by questioning their competence, commitment, or training)
  • “Blame”  the parents  (by questioning their involvement, level of support, or their expectations)
  • “Blame” the numbers  (by suggesting the data is inaccurate, unfair, or biased)
  • “Blame” the competition  (by suggesting they have fewer problems, more advantages, better resources)
  • “Blame” the assessments  (by suggesting they are wrong kind, administered at wrong  time or that the  wrong people developed them)

On behalf of the students and staff of Regina Public Schools I reject all of these potential attempts at deflection and blame!

Here’s why:

  • Because if the foregoing list of typical responses demonstrates anything, it is this that the factors that impact student achievement and eventual graduation are complex and multi-faceted.
  • Because at Regina Public Schools, one of our Shared Values is I am Responsible; and so we resolve to continue the work already underway to know each of our students as individuals, to challenge and support them in achieving their potential, and adopting a “whatever it takes” attitude to make them successful. We will also be willing to learn from those professional colleagues who, for the moment, are getting better results. As the Division’s lead learner, I personally take responsibility for our results: and for my obligation to get them to improve.
  • Because there is one thing I know for sure; the headlines suggesting we need to improve, was not news to anyone here at Regina Public Schools! We have been focused on improving our results for quite some time.

And finally,

  • Because, if I’ve learned anything in a 40 year career, it is this: there are few human beings, either children or adults, who are motivated to improve by being compared negatively to others. As our beloved Roughriders know, (as well as those Canadian Olympians who are headed off to Sochi!), that while it is always important to keep an eye on “the competition”, the real key to “finishing in first”, is for each and every team member to be better today than they were yesterday. They achieve first class results by being relentlessly focused on continuous improvement not only of themselves but of those around them. This too is not news: but it is worth remembering and emulating!

Julie MacRae

Director of Education