“Hope,” he smirked. “I want to see him try to measure that.”
His colleague laughed. “Well, at least no teachers will be fired because their students’ hope scores are so low.”
Engrossed in their conversation, these two school system employees seemed unaware of my presence as I passed them.
They were referring to remarks the superintendent made in his annual address about the state of the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. Dr. Josh Starr has been much quoted recently in national publications for his firm belief that helping students learn and closing the achievement gap are about more than scores on standardized tests.
Here’s what he said in his speech this week at the Strathmore Theatre in Bethesda:
Hope is what gets us up in the morning and keeps us going all day. Hope motivates us to keep trying. Hope is the engine of innovation…. For students, there’s a direct connection between their success in school and their level of hope, engagement, and well-being….Hope matters. Hope travels from person to person….
We are working hard and we are collaborating in the face of new opportunities and longstanding challenges because if we embrace the new, if we innovate, our children will thrive in their future.
And that’s what I’m asking each of you to continue to do. Help us embrace the new, by giving our students and their families the opportunities, the help, and the hope they need.
Dr. Starr came to our county in the wake of a superintendent who reveled in data and often used it to publicly humiliate principals of the lowest performing schools in the county—schools that score higher than most others in the nation on high stakes tests and on indexes that rate schools across the nation. And not even the closest colleagues of the former superintendent were invited to call him by his first name.
Now the same people who abhorred the previous superintendent for his zealous pursuit of data poke fun at Dr. Starr because he asks every one of the county’s 22,597 employees to call him by his first name and to see ourselves as his equals in being the bearers of hope.
Hope. It’s what made my father toil in a coal mine to ensure that his children got the education he didn’t have. It’s what made my mother tell us every day that school was important—and what made her go back to classes to earn her GED when she was in her 40s, though she would never use the diploma in pursuit of a career.
Hope. It’s what made our founding fathers and mothers risk their lives to board ships and set sail for an unknown land where their children, if they survived the trip, might start a new life in the land of the free. It’s what made them build one-room schools in the center of every fledgling town.
Hope. It’s what makes people of every faith continue to search for a just God in a world that sometimes seems bereft of hope, bereft of divinity.
Hope is one of the Big Three—faith, hope, love—and it’s second only to love.
While we may not be able to measure hope, we can be sure that each of our children gets a full measure of hope—the most that we can give.
And Josh is right: Hope does travel. He passed it on to a teenager, appropriately given a name full of hope—Blessed.
Here is Blessed Sheriff “On the Definition of Hope.” Pass it on.