Acronym Labeled Practices

There is no lack of ideas about how to restructure and reorganize schools and classrooms. Educators are very familiar with the never-ending series of “buzz words” that emerge, capture the attention of leaders for a few years, then fade into disuse when the next term distracts leaders. In recent years, the derisive label “buzz word” has been replaced with acronym. All who hope to launch the next “big thing” in education know they must have an acronym to capture its specific (yet nebulous) nature. Each new acronym labeled practice (ALP) is presented as a panacea for whatever ails education; advocates argue it will finally return our students to the top of the heap (whatever that might mean). Once the idea captures the attention of a powerful stakeholder in a school community, it will become the focus of workshops, presentations, courses, and other activities. This work will be vital to the community until the originally infected stakeholder is replaced or until his or her attention is diverted by another ALP.

Few who jump on the bandwagon and become local advocates of the ALP recognize that it is likely a repackaged version practice that was adopted as a buzz word labeled practice years ago, but that fell into disuse as it did not produce the promised rhetoric. The result is a cycle of emerging practices that do not deliver the promised results and that are replaced by others.

Some seek to avoid this cycle by conserving their own version of “what is best for students.” Their individual version is typically grounded in what they experienced as students themselves. For most teachers, their school experience was similar to that experienced by their parents, and despite the cyclic changes (or perhaps because of it), school has remained unchanged for even those generations that attended (and continue to attend) schools filled with computers and Internet connections.