Are the right standards in place in our school system?

RodneyHeadShotBy Rodney Smith, Class 28
First Financial Equity Corporation
Helping Hands for Freedom, Co-founder

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program.   The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership. 

It was a teacher in 7th grade that saw something inside this skinny, white haired kid from Thornton, Colorado that “changed my stars”.  He believed in me. He connected with me. He inspired me.

On Friday, October 25, 2013, I was able to share with my amazing classmates in the Scottsdale Leadership program a spectacular day with some of the most passionate, talented, and committed people in our education system. It became very apparent to me as the day unfolded that many of the standards we use to measure the success of our education system fall into the categories of: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Test scores as a measurement of success, access to money, or a means of job security need to jump in a canoe and float down the river. At the end of the day, if a child feels “connected” the odds increase significantly as to that child finding passion and direction to live a fulfilling life. That is the measurement that needs to be defined and held accountable.


Kim Dodd, Mary Masters and Kim Hanna (Class 27 graduates of the Scottsdale Leadership Program) provided the structure and direction of Education Day.  Mary emphasized, “A primary goal of the day was to inform the class all that “education” encompasses such as each child’s own level of readiness, constraints and obstacles the teachers face, evolving curriculum, and political differences when it comes to expenditures.”  One of our true leaders when it comes to Arizona education, Dr. Lattie F. Coor from the Center for the Future of Arizona, spoke to the group and simplified it best, “Understand the issues, and do something about it.” The current standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach.

Dr. John Balles, Clinical Services Coordinator for the Scottsdale Unified School District, started the day defining the challenges facing our children. Of course, bullying, drugs & alcohol, home environment, and social environments 

remain obstacles that our children have to overcome, but technology and all the different types of communication available in cyber-space are also a major factor whether or not our kids feel accepted and connected. Can you imagine if we had to worry about how many “LIKES” we have on Facebook to feel good about ourselves? PARENTS BEWARE!


It was John Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Arizona Department of Education that really opened my eyes regarding our school systems limited view of how we hold the system accountable. Mr. Huppenthal feels a holistic approach to education needs to be at the forefront and I agree. As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. A complete, well-rounded view of education as a whole should be where we develop, evaluate and measure. Caring and supportive teachers create a classroom environment which encourages students to behave in responsible ways and emphasizes learning over performing.


The theme of “connectedness” was even more apparent during a panel discussion featuring  the “Best of the Best” representatives speaking from a multitude of education sectors including charter schools, early childhood education, parent representative, business representative, public schools, higher education, and home school. Moderator Kim Hanna of Camping For Foodies, led a very intellectual dialog on regardless of where you send your child to school, it takes involvement from the community at-large to make it work, perhaps “Parent Development” being the most important factor. The quality and quantity of education received by our young people have a positive direct correlation with community stewardship, job creation, global marketplace competitiveness, career opportunity and civic engagement while minimizing the negative impacts on social services, substance abuse and suicides. As Kim Hanna points out, “Education is the foundation of our entire society—that’s why we should all be passionate about it.”

Politically speaking I struggle with the idea that one person can make a difference anymore, but I do know personally that each of us can make a difference in the life of a child. I challenge you to share at least one positive step to engage students, families and the community in ensuring the education of our children?

To my seventh grade teacher, Mr. Usechek… THANK YOU for believing in me and connecting with me. I love my life because of you!



Filed under Class, Community, Leadership

6 responses to “Are the right standards in place in our school system?

  1. Lois Kinsella

    Rodney – great blog! I had another take-away and that was the concept that parents could consider the education system as a menu of options for their child, perhaps enrolling in online classes, or specialized courses and sports activities at different schools to provide the best personalized educational experience. The scheduling and driving might be more difficult, but can you imagine how this approach could benefit a student’s goals and learning styles?

  2. Thanks for the inspirational blog, Rodney! It was a great day and you captured the essence of the issues. I can see great things coming from Class 28!

  3. Rodney Smith

    Hi Lois… thanks for the response… I actually like the competition that open enrollment creates… lots of great choices out there for the kids and parents.

  4. Rodney Smith

    Thanks for your hard work planning the day Kim
    … you gave our Class 28 plenty to think about!!!

  5. Rodney – great write up! Thank you to SL as well for coordinating another amazing day of learning and raising awareness around this very important issue for our future.

    My biggest take away was how our state is doing great things when it comes to education. Arizona is faced with some tremendous challenges compared to other states. However, one has to look past the statistics to see what’s really happening and how it is making great strides to improve its education system. This was very clear in the panel discussion with Superintendent Huppenthal.

    A similar theme runs through the challenges in education as in other areas we’ve looked at so far – engagement, or connectedness. We all could direct more money at an issue to work toward a solution but it needs to start first with being engaged and aware of our surroundings. Technology is rapidly changing how we learn and work together. Simply referencing how we did things when we were growing up doesn’t work anymore!

  6. Rodney Smith

    Amen brother Bud…. that panel discussion could have gone on for hours!!

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