Let’s pretend that you have been offered a job with a company that has lots of branch offices. You can pick one of two cities for your home base. You have two children so the school situation is important to you.
City I has a great school system. The classes are a bit large but are very structured. On any given day the teacher can tell you what the kids will be doing. There is a mix of kids in the class. Some are very high achievers and others not so much. Of course, there are the average kids as well. The teacher sticks to this middle ground. There is a huge emphasis on preparation for college. It is the hope that all students will go to college. Testing is done frequently so that student progress can be measured and standards met. Teachers are evaluated on how well the kids do on the tests. High test scores equal good teaching; low scores equal bad teaching.
City S also has a great school system but a very different philosophy. In City S the classes are a lot smaller. The teacher can’t tell you where she will be in the curriculum until pretty close to the time she gets there. The pacing in City S is based on how well the kids are learning. It is also true that some of the children may be well ahead of the others, so there really isn’t a lock step march through the content. In City S it is important for some of the students to go to college; but it is just as important for others to get vocational training and go into careers that demand other skills which do not require a college education. Tests are given in City S, although not as frequently as in City I; but the purpose is neither to grade the students or the teachers. In City S the purpose of the testing is for the teacher and students to check in on progress and as a guide for what needs to be retaught.
So which city do you choose for your kids and your next job? You might have guessed by now that City I runs on the full-inclusion, standards curriculum. City S is a special education model. Right now the common wisdom is that the City I model is best for everyone. Personally I think the common wisdom is bass ackwards. As for me, I am moving to City S where every child gets what he/she needs.