“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

– Abraham Maslow

In so many ways we insist on sticking to remarkably limited toolboxes, a shortsightedness that does a huge disservice to the world.

School districts take the same approach, year after year, hammering those nails over and over again.  Low test scores?  Increase benchmark assessments and end of year skill reviews, effectively decreasing instructional time.  Poor student attendance?  Increase punitive consequences for parents.  Again.  Unacceptable behavior on the playground, in the classroom, or on the bus?  Maintain the party line – all students deserve a safe learning environment – but continue to let the troublemakers wreck havoc daily.

What about small group tutoring sessions before and after school?  Holding the get togethers someplace welcoming, comfortable…more conducive to a club feeling than punishment for falling behind.  Studying the correlation between socio-economic status and test results then taking steps to improve conditions for the necessary students.  Investigating the real reasons behind tardiness and absenteeism – living conditions, family situations, transportation issues – then giving our social workers real funds to attack the problems.

Find ways to make schools safe in every way for our children.  Separate students who pose a risk or unreasonable distraction to learning until they’ve regained control.  Require students who behave unacceptably to find alternate transportation.  Concerned that they won’t make it to school at all?  Run a small bus route to transport children who need a smaller driver to student ratio, and add an adult monitor if necessary.

We’ve taken the same hammer to our problems for years; it’s time to expand the freaking toolbox, people.

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