After unapologetically teaching to the ACT, this tiny Wisconsin district now ranks among the state’s best

Samantha West:

“We had all the pieces we needed for success,” said Bruggink, who first came to Oostburg as a student teacher and worked his way up to superintendent. “So was there a way we could harness that, that we could bring all that together?”

He turned to his teachers for ideas. Together, and with the assistance of a two-year transformation program, they rethought the whole business of education at Oostburg, and they settled on some surprising conclusions:

  • Teachers should have more power to figure out how to teach their own students.

  • Students needed to be encouraged to be more ambitious at an earlier age — whether their plans included a four-year college, a two-year tech school or heading straight into the workforce.

  • And Oostburg’s schools really should teach to the test — often viewed cynically as a sign of systemic wrongheadedness — because the test had the same goals as the schools did. But not quite in the way you’d think.

Seven years later, the results are hard to argue with.