• by Blaine Helwig

One Size Does Fit All – Commonality Rules

Many Title 1 elementary schools yield chronic academic performance year after year, and if the elementary schools struggle – the feeder middle schools require an academic miracle to fix their inherited situation. With poor foundational language and arithmetic skills, the feeder secondary schools are facing an uphill battle – implementing parallel programs to correct the elementary school skill gaps while simultaneously providing grade level academics.

As these scenarios continue across the country, educators readily provide reasons for the lack of success in their Title 1 elementary schools. I have heard most of them by this point in my career, but the following list of notables is worth revisiting: poverty, a lack of parent support, poorly prepared teachers, inequitable funding and standardized testing is the issue fomenting school failure. I agree that these possible causes influence Title 1 performance and indeed, may be relevant concerns, but despite the inherent challenges, there are Title 1 academic success stories.

There exists urban Title 1 elementary schools with sustained academic performance that directly compete with high socioeconomic elementary school results. Similar academic Title 1 student performance has been replicated in other challenging schools using similar systems and resource methodologies. So, it can be done – and repeated with similar student demographics in urban settings.

Why are Title 1 academic successes NOT expanded to other Title 1 elementary schools?

“One size does not fit all!”

That is it! This phrase is frequently stated with emphatic finality without supporting arguments, evidence or basis. In fact, it is often repeated by both elementary principals and senior district administrative officials as the rationale against expanding effective and proven Title 1 academic transformation methodologies.

The statement – “One size does not fit all” – is counterintuitive to human experience and lacks a logical, statistical premise. Common solutions are sought to solve problems consisting of common elements. It is this lineage of thought that is prevalent in resolving complicated issues.

Solving general problems via commonality

A common issue is identified. Common patterns are identified, solved and applied to the common issue. The word ‘common’ is intentionally emphasized. If a complicated problem exists, it is separated into components – discretely solved in parts. Then the individual parts are connected to the whole and applied to rectify all the initial common incidents in all locations.

This general problem solving approach is the basis for human advancement socially, emotionally and scientifically. It is the process that transitioned the human race from cave dwellers to communal living with intricate social interactions.

The practice is standard in many professional fields. Engineers, mathematicians, financiers, social scientists and the like search for patterns to determine commonality. Once identified, then and only then, general solutions are derived, developed and applied to the whole – efficiently and effectively. The methodology appears rudimentary, because it is. If the process were complicated, it would not work.

Is there much thought and work involved in the process? Absolutely! That aspect of the process will not change; however, the efficiency of solving one issue that corrects similar situations in many different locations is powerful.

If seemingly complicated problems are constantly approached as unique and isolated situations, there is little probability of a scale solution – which is exactly what has happened in Title 1 school academic reform. Unfortunately, when the idea of Title 1 uniqueness is promulgated to the effect that – all academic problems are unique and one size does not fit all – a common solution will never, absolutely never be developed.

There are common solutions to the Title 1 elementary academic conundrum. Those intervention measures have proved effective and viable for one and only one reason. They directly address and rectify the common academic elements adversely affecting all Title elementary schools – affording an inexpensive general solution to chronic and anemic academic performance. So in effect, “One size does fit All” in Title 1 academic reform as one Title 1 elementary school’s general academic problems are similar to other Title 1 elementary schools.