Meet a Member of the Madera Education Community!
Updated: Feb 28
Did you miss this episode? You can check it out here!
In January, we focused on Health and Wellness. This month, which is February, our focus will be on education!
I interviewed Todd Lile, who is one of my lifelong friends. I met him in Madera, California when I was eleven years old. He was my football coach and mentor.
He comes from a long-time of educators in the community that includes his parents (plus an aunt and uncle)!
Todd is currently the superintendent of the Madera Unified School District. This means he is leading the entire school district in the community where he has deep roots. The very place where his extended family has spent their time, money, and effort.
Todd explains that when he met me in the summer of 1992, he had just graduated from high school. He’d started working as a paraprofessional in special education at an elementary school.
He’s 45 years old and has been in the education field for 28 years. He said he’s just getting started and plans to stay in the field for another 20 years!
What changes has education gone through in the last 20 years? Todd reports there have been a few distinct phases that we can examine.
In the beginning, there wasn’t a curriculum that was purchased (or assembled) at the school site level. There were some grade-level expectations. However, teachers pulled together the curriculum from a variety of educational products.
Then in the late 1990s, there was a movement towards standards-based education that would lay out the bare bones of grade-level expectations. Todd said that it was really hard for the teachers to work with because prior to these new standards there wasn’t a purchased curriculum.
In the early 2000s, the federal government was guaranteeing that all students would be at grade level by 2014 with the No Child Left Behind act. Todd points out that hasn’t happened.
In fact, the era of standards and tests has really taken away the love, creativity, and enthusiasm for education. He said it’s going to be challenging to bring education back to a place where creativity is desirable and curiosity is rewarded.
Our districts are still required to have high stakes testing. Then labels are placed on struggling, working-class communities--which historically comes with race.
Unfortunately, that is something that has been incorporated into the fabric of our country since the beginning.
How are we going to reestablish a new and healthy normal for the kids in this country?
Todd said that it must be done community by community because there are 50 different states with 50 different ways of doing business. That’s not to mention local control at the community level.
He said something to think about is how we’re training today’s students for types of work that haven’t even been created yet. One sector that can always be included will be health care, which is always needed.
The 21st century is full of unknown educational challenges.
When was education--and students--most successful?
The answer to that question is the 20th century's version of education. That’s when most young people were on the way to Stanford to become future professors, researchers, and writers.
It was a system that created a higher level of creative thinker.
Let’s look at a connection to that… Todd said a parallel to Google is Marvel.
He explains that Marvel was almost bankrupt in the 90s.
However, the intellectual properties that had been created from the early 60s up through the 90s would generate multiple billion-dollar movies 20 years later.
Todd said his mother and teachers thought they were a waste of time. He said he was discouraged from drawing those types of pictures. As a young person, he was a comic book illustrator. The problem was he was told there wasn’t any money in the illustration business.
Then he found out that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is huge in the history of Hollywood.
He said that nobody saw it coming.
I have to say Todd’s words resonated with me. I’m currently reading the book Alchemy. It’s about thinking outside the box and being creative.
The bottom line is that in the 21st century it’s all about creativity.
How do you unlock doors with education?
You allow people the freedom to indulge their ability to think outside the box. That includes opening up doors for all students, but especially minority children, who’ve come from a different place with their education.
Todd said the issues are tied up with history, long before Brown versus the Board of Education in 1954.
Let’s look at one of the issues.
There was a certain group of children who were not projected to graduate (a high rate of 40% to 50%). A lot of those young people were black and brown.
What other factors were correlated to these statistics?
They would be boys.
They could have social/emotional issues.
They might be handicapped or have disabilities.
They may come from unfortunate personal circumstances.
That’s the way the system worked. No questions were asked--until they were. That’s when there was a tremendous amount of pushback.
Todd points out the value of seeing children for who they are and what their life circumstances are. There are children who are blocked from progressing because historically our country has treated them in a stereotypical fashion.
We must change how we handle collateral damage in the system. We need to unlock doors for the children who have been under-represented.
He said we need to see under-representing children for what it is: the historical circumstances and limits it places on children and their families.
We’ve seen how children who didn't believe in themselves can thrive when given a chance. It shows other children who are watching that advancement is possible.
The ripple effect will change the school campus and community environment.
What would you like to see in our education systems?
Please leave a comment below.