He turned to his teachers for ideas. Together, and with the assistance of a two-year transformation program, they rethought the whole business of education at Oostburg, and they settled on some surprising conclusions:
- Teachers should have more power to figure out how to teach their own students.
- Students needed to be encouraged to be more ambitious at an earlier age — whether their plans included a four-year college, a two-year tech school or heading straight into the workforce.
- And Oostburg’s schools really should teach to the test — often viewed cynically as a sign of systemic wrongheadedness — because the test had the same goals as the schools did. But not quite in the way you’d think.
Seven years later, the results are hard to argue with.
Oostburg’s 2018-19 ACT scores were seventh out of nearly 400 schools — in a tier where every other school spends more per pupil and household incomes are higher than in the little village 10 miles south of Sheboygan.
And student participation in Advanced Placement courses and exams increased sixteenfold, data from the state Department of Public Instruction show.