Ed Bales, former Director of Motorola Corporation's University (developers of the Six Sigma approach to quality) discovered a school reality that begs our attention. He called it the 91% factor. Bales and his Motorola team realized that most of Motorola's entry level employees were highly unprepared in math, reading, writing, and problem solving skills. They turned their attention to the schools, hoping to improve them. But in doing so they came to a stark realization: during the years of K-12, childrens’ school time is only 9% of their time while 91% of their time is with their parents, peers, media, and the larger society.
Thus, if students K-12 are not with the schools 91% of that time, possibly Motorola's attention needed to be more on the 91% factor than on the school’s 9% factor. If that's true for Motorola why isn't it also true for school reformers?
What happens during the 91% time? Certainly, some of that time is sleep time, but most of that is awake time and much of that is spent with media such as radio, TV, music, video games, cell phones, computers, the internet, iPods, FaceBook, instant messaging, text messaging, magazines, blogs, web casts, YouTube, and malls (yes malls are a powerful medium). Certainly these media are not leaving any children behind and they’re doing it without tests.
Text messaging and talking on cell phones are really variations of hanging out, as teenagers often like to do. And the truth is that many teenagers hang out electronically long past midnight. I recently asked of a teenager whom I know which media device he would keep if he had to give up all of his devices except one. I thought he would say his computer because he is a computer whiz. Instead he said he would not want to give up his cell phone on which he is often text messaging until after 2:00 AM. Any teacher who wonders why so many students seem to fall asleep in class or why they seem fatigued doesn’t really know his/her students’ 91% factor. (SAT folks may be realizing this because when they discovered that SAT scores were down, they blamed it on student fatigue.)
So, why blame and bash the teachers who have so little time with our students? Who's fault is it that many of our schools are failing and most of our reforms fail, too? It's nobody's fault. However, this is not a call for more time in school it's a call for facing reality.