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Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Weight-Bearing Limit

A Weight-Bearing Limit

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

            My wife Wendy and I feel fortunate to be living in a small neighborhood, a few miles from downtown Terre Haute, Indiana, with most roads in our subdivision designed as cul-de-sacs.  It’s a great place for our children to grow, play, and learn as they run from yard to yard with friends, mostly out of the path of traffic, except for our subdivision’s main artery.
            Most in the neighborhood were excited recently as two of the few remaining empty lots were purchased near the back of the subdivision, and construction began.  The rumble of cement and materials trucks in early spring was something that we hadn’t seen, and nightly strolls past the foundation and rough work were filled with anticipation.  Thoughts of property values going up, admittedly, were part of the conversation among friends and neighbors.

            Forward progress, however, has come at a price. 

It appears that the weight-bearing limit of roads-not-yet-stable from the melt of ice and snow had been exceeded.  Our subdivision’s main artery has crumbled this spring in a number of places.  The once-attractive cul-de-sac of the two new homes is in disrepair, and bicycle rides for the children have become a bit clunky, when moving from someone’s house to another’s.
We hear of an eventual repair, yet ask ourselves . . .
            Why the seeming rush to move things at such a pace, when the fragility of early spring conditions is a blinding flash of the obvious?  Why not wait just a bit more time, and give conditions a bit longer to settle, so that the neighborhood can bear the load?

            As I sit on my deck this evening, I cannot help but think of K-12 education, as I ask:

            Who or what is our “road”?
What can it reasonably support?
Is our “weight-bearing limit” being exceeded?
            Is something crumbling?

            I also ask . . .

            Who is the “truck driver”?
            What is the “load”?
            Are there pressures to move too quickly?
Could we be delivering what we deliver, more carefully?
            Finally, what will happen to the eventual value of our “property,” if we exceed our weight-bearing limit over time, while going too fast for conditions as the roads we’re traveling fall apart?


Dr. Ryan Donlan is worried about the roadway of K-12 education.  He ponders, “Are standardized test scores, school rankings, and prescriptive pacing guides encouraging students to become test-takers and assignment-doer’s, rather than playground collaborators and inquisitive learners?” If you would to discuss, deliberate, or even debate a point or two, please do not hesitate to contact him at (812) 237-8624 or

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