Went to the NI Technical Symposium (excellent!) today and was enthralled with thin-clients, but I don't want to talk about that. The thing that struck me most in the last 24 hours is from an article called "The future of transformational learning." Original emphasis.

...the way to measure success in our public schools is not to reject academic standards, but to return to an evaluation system that measures quality by the school's contribution to community development. Thus, we are changing the focus of public education to what should be its primary purpose - community development. The academic standards can be handled by third, sixth, and eighth-grade level passes if reading, math, science, history, and the arts are successfully completed through competency-based instruction. Yes, no grades!

Quality is not test scores on standardized tests. If you think so, read Deming's "Out of Crisis." Quality means students doing action research projects that improve the local, regional, or global community. Students learn how to learn when they choose to learn something that is important to them, but an added incentive is when it also meets a community need, a bioregional need, or a national need. An example is energy independence. Why not give high school, community college, and college students the opportunity to research a variety of energy options that would lessen the national dependence on fossil fuels?...

The question of how we evaluate our schools is really a question about what we think it means to be a good person. We say that schools are successful because they prepare children in certain ways, ostensibly in ways that will encourage them to have an impact, which is (we hope) the difference we'd like them to make.

There are a lot of layers between "is this a good school?" and "what do we want the future of the world to grow up to be?" but the connection is there.