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  • Tony Wold, Ed.D.

Planned Obsolescence


Let’s start with a look at some of the fundamental thinking about prevention (with a little of my own):

  • “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Benjamin Franklin

  • “Measure twice, cut once” – Giovanni Flores

  • “Remediation is less effective than prevention and starting at a young age (childhood) to combat stereotypes may offer a more effective solution” – Derald Wing Sue

  • “Attendance is the gateway to student achievement and the first line of defense against lost learning” – Tony Wold, Ed.D.

  • “Treatment without prevention is simply unsustainable” – Bill Gates

  • “A clever person solves a problem; a wise person avoids it” – Albert Einstein

  • “Prevention is a whole lot costly than treatment, and likely more effective” Debbie Adair

A regular ELA textbook adoption for a mid-sized district may cost $2 to $3 million for the core materials, and then another $750,000 to $1 million for the supplemental intervention materials. This is very similar to automobiles and appliances selling extended warranties for additional costs. The underlying message, however, is that publishers fully anticipate that their program will not completely result in the desired learning outcomes, so the publisher is ensuring a continued revenue stream by supplying “the remediation solution.” As a society, we are so numbed by this concept that it is accepted practice and politically advantageous for school boards to look “proactive” by planning for remediation.


To be clear, I 100% believe public education has a duty to provide additional supports and even as we work to address the systemic biases of our system and focus on equity of outcomes. However, I also believe we should be reducing the number of students that require remediation in the first place. Research has consistently demonstrated that attendance is the biggest predictor of dropouts and course failures. Students who miss one day per month have a 95% attendance rate. Students who cross below 90% attendance are 4xs more likely to dropout or fail courses. A University of Chicago study determined that 67% of students who failed or dropped out had first been chronically absent.


If we truly want to change the narrative in public education back to a focus on teaching and learning and away from the divisive and divided politics of the current era, the first approach is to go back to basics and get students to attend school and then invest in the programs, staff, and services that will support students and teachers to keep these students wanting to attend. Remember, 95% attendance just means the student only missed 1 day per month, there absolutely is room for every LEA in America to improve.