Posted on 03/11/2015 at 11:11 AM by Liz Determan

During the past two years, I have been fortunate to be involved in Iowa’s Competency-Based Education Collabortive.  We are working together to try to figure out how to introduce and support competency-based education across the state so each and every student will have the opportunity to experience an educational system that is not built around seat time, end of chapter tests and quizzes, and endless homework assignments that have no significant impact on either academic achievement or real life outside the classroom.  As a collaborative, we read Rich DeLorenzo’s book, “Delivering on the Promise”, which describes how he led his school, and then Alaska into competency-based education.  While I recognize that this initiative, like many others, is dependent completely on the passion and willingness for teachers and administrators embrace the hard work it takes to change the educational systems in their communities, I thought I would share DeLorenzo’s list of  “Top 10 Excuses to Guarantee No Change”:

  1. We’re satisfied with our results.  Most of our students graduate, and many are very successful in life.  What’s the point in changing?
  2. This is the way I was taught to teach.  The university I attended was world-renowned, so they must know what’s best.
  3. School was good enough for me, so it should be good enough for my children.
  4. My child is a high achiever, and the system is working fine for her.  Let’s not rock the boat.  Besides, this only applies to students at the low end.
  5. Our district doesn’t have leaders who are willing to commit to changing the system.
  6. Our district is different. Besides, we are already using standards.
  7. We’re too small or We’re too big.
  8. We tried something like that once before.
  9. We don’t have the money.
  10. It sounds like a lot of work.


“What kind of person acknowledges excuses and reasons, but puts them aside to stand for something higher?  What kind of person is willing to challenge a system that is so well-established in every sense – culturally, financially, and even emotionally?  What kind of individual is willing to be the one to lead a group in an entirely new direction?... Maybe it is the 1% in any audience who will take on the challenge – the 1% we can’t wait to meet. Within this 1% are people who may be uncomfortable with change, but are not stopped by change, people who embrace problems, people who recognize but are not dissuaded by the dissenters in the crowd.  These people – the critical 1% solution – can dramatically impact the future of education everywhere.  The have the choice to do what’s easy or do what’s right.”

Are you in that 1%?  What difference can you make in your district for the sake of your students?

R. DeLorenzo, W. Battino, R. Schreiber, & B. Gaddy Carrio.  “Delivering on the Promise: The Education Revolution”, 2009, Solution Tree Press.

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