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The 300-Word Guide to Long-Term Flourishing

By Dave Stuart Jr.

Post Image- Long-term flourishing in 300 wordsConfused about the term “long-term flourishing?” Let's clear it up in about 300 words.

Long-term flourishing is the real purpose of schooling. It's what every educator and parent on the planet hopes for their children. Long-term because we love the child not just for today or this year, but also in 20 years; flourishing because we know there are many viable paths to a useful, rich life.

How does long-term flourishing relate to standardized tests?

The American obsession with standardized testing is built on what Paul Tough calls the “cognitive theory:” the flawed yet popular belief that IQ matters most in the successful development of a child.

Quality standardized tests do measure part of what it takes to flourish in the long-term. Content knowledge and academic skills are often indispensable when building a flourishing life. But the bigger picture includes self-control and purpose, effective help-seeking and ownership of learning (Dr. David Conley calls these “success skills,” Character Lab calls them “character strengths,” and Dr. James Heckman calls them “noncognitive skills”).

How do we work toward the long-term flourishing of children?

  1. Provide students with repeated, rich opportunities to work on both intellectual and character growth (“dual-purpose” classrooms).
  2. Begin studying the science of success: start at my character page or Character Lab's resource page (both free).
  3. Refuse to freak out about high-stakes tests; use them for what they are worth, but don't tie your identity to their results.
  4. Be teachable. Learn from folks inside and outside of education because success is not the sole territory of schools.

How do we measure long-term flourishing?

I think it would be fascinating if schools were given the chance to follow-up with students one year, five years, and ten years after they leave. How do former students fare in the job market? In creating families? In achieving their aspirations?

Is that all?

Yep! Don't over-complicate long-term flourishing. It should be simple, and it is the definition of impact.

Thank you to Corbett Barr, who teaches me about success by living it and teaching entrepreneurship. His post inspired this one.

11 Responses to The 300-Word Guide to Long-Term Flourishing

  1. D August 19, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    Thank you for defining this concept so clearly! It is difficult to “refuse to freak out about high-stakes tests; use them for what they are worth, but don’t tie your identity to their results” when the state in which I teach ties test results to teacher performance. In NY, a teacher gets a growth score based on the grade 3-8 ELA and Math tests. If the teacher receives an ineffective or developing growth score, even if every other part of the teacher’s APPR scores are highly effective, the teacher is rated as ineffective. If this occurs for two years in a row, the teacher must defend his or her job. Three years in a row and the teacher is fired.

    This means that one test that means absolutely nothing to a student’s average or ability to move on to the next grade level means everything to a teacher’s identity as a teacher. I know I’m a great teacher, but there are circumstances beyond my control concerning the tests. Last year, several students decided to opt out. Others saw that happen and part way through the test decided they wanted to opt out too, but they still got a score because they started the test. Students were just filling in bubbles and refusing to write essay responses because the tests didn’t mean anything for their scores.

    I know my growth score will be low even though every other part of my APPR will be highly effective. I’m definitely freaking out because I love my job and don’t want to lose it, and I don’t want parents to see my results and APPR score and think I’m a failure. Until the State stops ranking schools based on the scores and stops tying teacher performance to a flawed test, I will be freaking out! (The flawed tests are a whole other post!)

    • davestuartjr August 19, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

      D, thank you so much for your heartfelt response. Here is my opinion, and keep in mind that I am the wage-earner in a single-income household — and this has been my opinion before being a blogger and speaker: if I am teaching my heart out, growing each year, earnestly working toward the long-term flourishing of my students, then I will refuse to allow any person in power to cause me to lose sleep at night with a flawed or — what in your case sounds like an — insane policy.

      In short, I would welcome the opportunity to be fired for being a great teacher who refuses to spend hours upon hours teaching toward a test. I don’t honestly think it could ever come to that — if we indeed get to the point where hard-working, earnest teachers are being fired just because of test scores, then it is time for me to move my family from that town or city or state because the quality of an education in that place is too close to the iceberg to miss it.

      If I’m an average person, I get to live 70-some years. No power will take a single one of those years and drain it of joy. I have little power to impact policy, but I do have power about how I will let that policy affect the quality of my internal life.

      D, dare them with your daily excellence to fire you for doing everything but magically, omnipotently making your students fill in the bubbles correctly. Dare the people who visit your classroom and speak with your students to determine your worth based on an APPR score.

      If you lose your job in this way or are judged poorly in this manner, it says nothing about you and everything about the system that fires you and the hearts who judge you.

      I am with you; I love your honesty and hate your pain; it is unjust. This insanity will not last forever.


      • D August 19, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

        Your comments really put things into perspective, Dave! Thank you, thank you for spending the time to reply to my own comment. I appreciate your insight and sincerity, and I will keep what you have written in mind as I embark on another school year.

  2. Holly Parker August 19, 2015 at 9:12 am #

    Dave, I am so glad I voted for you to win the grant. I am grateful for your insight and how your posts speak about the work we do. Those who are not in our shoes yet want to dictate and define what is student progress is haven’t got a clue. It takes time for students to learn how to think and reflect. For Deanna don’t let that score rock you. You KNOW you are an effective teacher, trust what you see in the students who are in front of you. You can see the progress that a score can not measure and as Dave points out in the long-term it will help them flourish. I learned that when my students came back to thank me. It was then I stopped being freaked about test scores.

    • davestuartjr August 19, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

      Holly, thank you so so much. We teach for the long-term; we have to remind ourselves that in some of the insane contexts within which we teach.

  3. Heather Peska August 19, 2015 at 10:55 am #

    I love your posts – they are inspirational and “dead on” – thank you!

  4. Fatuma Hydara August 20, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    Hi Dave,

    I just stopped by to let you know that I am experiencing a momentous change as an 2nd year English teacher. I am grinning widely, excitedly rethinking, restructuring, replanning my upcoming year and I am only up to chapter 3. Of Gallagher’s Readicide.

    You’re clearly a Gallagher fan and in following your posts, I impulsively bought his text. It SAT on a shelf unread all year. I brought It home with me for the summer….and it sat unread. Again. I picked it up last night to return to school and next thing I knew I was up to chapter 2. (The FLOW before I’d learned what it was!)

    Article of the Week will definitely be happening for my kiddos this year and who knows what else (only halfway through after all).

    So, I thank you for your work. Here’s another teacher (along with her students) to add to your legacy of awesomeness! 🙂

    • davestuartjr August 20, 2015 at 10:08 pm #

      Fatuma, you give me goosebumps 🙂 What a kind and rewarding compliment for me to read; I love nothing more than being able to point people to great work; Readicide was an inflection point for me, too. Thank you, Fatuma — I always love reading what your up to in these comments 🙂

  5. McKenzie Campbell November 17, 2018 at 12:50 pm #

    Dave, I LOVE that you can write a helpful blog entry in 300 words. I have been following along with your emails since early June of this year, and your work is fundamentally shaping my growth as a teacher-educator-scholar-activist. I am so excited to read your new book – it’s patiently waiting in my pile of PD books to read when I graduate from this MA/Cert Program at University of Michigan. Thanks for inspiring those of us who want to go to to persue PhD programs, so that we can help train teachers. You show us it IS possible to do it all! @mscampbell734

    • davestuartjr November 18, 2018 at 11:05 am #

      McKenzie, please give my regards to your profs there at U of M. I received my cert after graduating from the School of Ed there, about 12 years ago. It is so encouraging to me to hear from you, McKenzie. Keep on in the work and please keep in touch. We’re only going to make teaching better if we work together.

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